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What Is Your E-mail IQ?

By Greg Merkley

When a telephone rings, you pick it up and say "Hello". When you want to end the call, you say "Goodbye" and hang up the receiver. When you get a call for someone that is away from their desk, you take a message. You do not eat while talking. You always identify yourself when calling someone else. You have a high Telephone IQ.

But how good are you with e-mail?

A recent survey showed that business people prefer communicating by e-mail over the telephone, so e-mail communication skill will be essential to your future success.

To help you assess your level of skill, I have developed what I call my "E-mail IQ Test".

  • Basic skills (score 1 point for each question answered "Yes")

    1. Have you ever received an e-mail message?
      This is just to get you started.
    2. Have you ever sent an e-mail message?
      Everyone needs to start somewhere.
    3. Have you ever copied (CC) or blind copied (BCC) other recipients on a message?

      It's important to know that BCC addressees aren't visible to anyone that receives the message - this could save your job.

    4. Have you ever forwarded an e-mail message to someone else?

      Forwarding is one of the beauties of e-mail: you can easily share something with someone else or send an errant message to the right person

    5. Have you ever redirected an e-mail message to someone else?

      Redirecting a message preserves the original sender information, while forwarding makes you the sender.

  • Intermediate skills (score 2 points for each question answered "Yes")

    1. Do you use a signature file in all your e-mail messages?

      In addition to being a great opportunity to promote your business by including your name, company, phone and fax, signature files can be invaluable in helping the recipient figure out who you are.

    2. Do you file your e-mail in a systematic way?

      If you don't have a system for filing, E-mail can lose a lot of its value and become a bigger burden than a stack of faxes.

    3. When replying to messages do you quote the original message appropriately?
    4. Quoting can be essential in order to provide context in a reply, but it can be tedious and confusing to look through pages of quoted signatures and e-mail headers.

  • Advanced skills (score 3 points for each question answered "'Yes")

    1. Do you use filters to automatically sort and prioritize e-mail?

      Filters identify certain types of messages and perform an action on them so you can file and categorize a large number of messages without becoming overwhelmed.

    2. Have you successfully sent documents as attachments?

      Sending attachments is easy, but succeeding can be hard if you don't consider possible incompatibilities in operating systems, software versions, computer hardware or compression/encoding technology.

    3. Do you check the spelling and grammar of every message you send?

      Unlike the telephone, e-mail is a written form of communication and you will be judged based on how well you write, not how well you speak.

  • Etiquette skills (score 5 points for each question answered "Yes")

    1. Do you reply promptly to every legitimate e-mail?

      This question is weighted heavily because most companies and most people do a poor job in this area, at least by comparison with the telephone. In my opinion, "promptly""means within one business day .

    2. Are your messages written in a tactful, courteous and honest manner?

      Your message may be forwarded to many people (including anyone you may savage in the body of the message), so avoid embarrassing yourself and offending others by thinking twice before you click "Send".

So, how did you do? Here is my unscientific scoring chart:

0-10 pointsYou have a lot to learn
11-15 points You're making progress. Keep it up!
16-20 points You can e-mail with confidence
21-25 points You're the office e-mail specialist
26-30 points Go to the head of the class! You're an e-mail e-xpert!

Copyright 1999, Travel Technology & Magic, Ltd.

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