This week a friend was listening to me dictate a text message. She said, “You use a lot of exclamation marks.” She didn’t mean it as a compliment. Unfazed, I responded “It’s because you cannot tell tone in emails and texts.” In fact, I believe that just like some people suffer from resting bitch face, emails and texts sound naturally bitchy. Without hearing tone of voice and seeing body language, emails read negative. This negative tone is especially problematic in business emails. Hence my love of exclamation marks.
Exclamation marks get a bad rap. And I do agree that using too many of them can make you come across like a 6th grade girl. But I believe judicious use of exclamation marks is important to convey tone in emails.
How to fix Your E-Mail Tone
Don’t try to overcompensate resting bitchy e-mail by writing like a text message. Don’t use emoticons. Don’t use texting abbreviations like LOL or IDK. As parents are fond of saying, use your words.
Keep it short and sweet. When at all possible, emails should only be a few short paragraphs. Do not make people scroll down to continue reading. Often they won’t so they miss vital information. And it will be tempting to reply in an irritated tone.
Before you start writing take a moment to think about what action you want out of this e-mail. Do you want a yes to your request? A new meeting on the schedule? Time off for vacation? Write your e-mail with your end result in mind. Knowing what you want the reader to think and do will help you craft a concise, clear message.
Organize your e-mail. Use bullet points, numbered lists, and bold titles to make the information easy to read and remember.
Before you hit send, read your e-mail three times for typos. One of those times, read it out loud to help catch typos and nasty tone. If you still are not sure of the tone, call a friend and read the e-mail to them to get their feedback. Finally, think about who you’re sending it to and what your relationship is with them. If it’s at all contentious, is there any language that you need to change to sound more congenial? In general, it never hurts to adjust your language and consider throwing in an exclamation point or two.
Never write in all caps. It comes across as SHOUTING. (It always reminds me of the wonderful Discworld books by Terry Pratchett where Death speaks in capital letters.)
Beware of corporate email jargon. For those of us in corporate jobs, there are a lot of common email phrases that have loaded meanings. Here a few:
Sometimes you have to use them (or you just can’t help yourself). Be aware they can covey a negative tone. I suggest avoiding corporate email speak whenever possible.
This e-mail is brought to you by the exclamation mark!
Wading through work emails isn’t fun. But taking the time to review your writing before you hit send can save your lots of headaches and protect your reputation. Remember that email is a kind of conversation and conversations build relationships. You want to make sure that you are not coming across negatively so that people like and trust you, and consequently, like working with you.
Exclamation points are especially handy when conveying excitement or support, which is why, as an enthusiastic person, I use them a lot. When in doubt, when you are trying to shift the tone of your e-mail and are not sure how to do it, use an exclamation mark.
Just For Fun
You may remember the Seinfeld episode (season five episode 4, The Sniffing Accountant) where Elaine breaks up with someone because he is anti-exclamation mark. Lots of people feel strongly about them!
Here is an article on resting bitch face and how to fix it.
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If you are a creative, you may think that Linked In is not for you. You may see it as boring, stuffy, and corporate-oriented. But there is more to Linked In than meets the eye.
Be Easy to Find
If you are a writer or any kind of content creator, you need to be easy to find. What that means is you should be as many places as possible. If someone Googles you, information on who you are and how to reach you should easily pop up. Your Linked In public profile is one of the first things that people see when they search for you on Google. Also, lots of people when they are looking to hire or contact someone, skip Google and go straight to Linked In.
Linked In is one of the biggest search engines in the world. It is the first place many people go, when they are searching for new hires, open jobs, or researching new industries and ideas. You need to maximize your searchability by using the keywords that are standard in your industry. How do you find the best keywords to use? Look at people’s profiles who have your current job and the job you want. Notice which words and descriptions you see the most. These are the words to use in your profile to make it searchable.
Linked In also has a robust social media aspect of people sharing open jobs, job wins, and longer content in the form of articles and newsletters. When you get a new job, have a show airing, or a new book coming out, don’t forget to post on Linked In in addition to your other social media channels.
Here are five things to overhaul to make your Linked In profile stand out:
Your Profile Picture
Your Contact Information
Your Profile Picture
For your profile to seem genuine and professional, you need a profile picture. When I get a Linked In request from someone I don’t know without a picture, I immediately disregard them. No picture means they haven’t done the most basic work on their profile. Your picture should be a simple headshot. Even though you’re a funky creative, don’t have a silly shot from Comic Con in costume, or with your dog, or on vacation. Linked In is a professional social media site so put your best face forward. You don’t need a fancy headshot, just a picture that is in focus with good lighting. Either take a selfie or have a friend take your picture up against a plain background. Don’t forget to smile! Extra points if your shirt or background matches your brand colors like this woman.
A blank banner makes your profile seem unfinished. Your banner and picture are the first things people see when they land on your profile. Make them snazzy! If you have a logo or brand colors, use them. This is another opportunity to creatively tell your Linked In audience about yourself.
Here are five suggestions to try:
Use your personal logline that explains who you are and what you do. The formula is: I help (kind of people) do ___ which helps them do ______. Here is where you get to show off your creative brand. If you are a writer, what kinds of things do you write? Start with your primary format (books, TV, film). Add your genre and some catchy adjectives. I am a novelist who writes psychological thrillers that keep you up at night. If you are a visual artist, what medium do you work in? Hint: When using a logline, make sure your background is simple so the words are easy to read.
Make your banner a mini portfolio or credits list. Show pictures of projects you’ve worked on and things you created. Everything from visual art pieces, to shots from a movie, and book covers. You can use an image from one project or have a whole collection.
Use a cool photo that ties in with what you do. For example, if you are an artist, you could use this.
Use a cool photo of where you work. I love this picture of Walt Disney Feature Animation.
Use an action photo showing you at work. Maybe you are behind the camera directing or speaking to an audience like this picture of me talking about romantic comedies.
How do you make these wonderful banners? With my favorite graphic design tool, Canva. You can get started there for free. The Pro version at $12.95 a month is well worth it. They have thousands of Linked In banner templates that you can customize, or you can start from scratch. The templates are wonderful because they are the exact size you need for your banner with layout and color suggestions. Also, it has thousands of stock photos and graphics to choose from to make your banner look amazing. Check out this video I made for a quick how to make your banner with Canva.
Your headline is much more than your current position. It is prime searchable space. So be sure to describe yourself using both key and common words. Do not call yourself something strange and clever like artist wrangler or animation guru. People are not going to be searching for those positions. Instead, put the words that describe not only what you’re currently doing, but what you did in the past, and what you want to do in the future. Think of this as another way to write your logline except you don’t have to use complete sentences. The more words you use here, the more you help the search engine. You have 220 characters. Use them all.
Your about section is where you can let a little bit of your personality come across. Maybe you can include your it all started with from your personal cocktail pitch. This is a great place to include your accomplishments – what you did and the results you got, especially if you have great stats. Be sure to mention any awards or places your work has been featured like film festivals or magazines. Have you been a guest on any podcasts or TV shows? Have you worked with big clients? What’s your favorite thing you’re currently working on? Tell your story. You have 2,600 characters here which works out to between 400 – 600 words. Don’t be afraid to write a lot. Use this space to showcase your talents, what you have done, and what you have to offer.
Your Contact Information
You would be surprised to learn that most people ignore the contact info part of their Linked In profile. This is as important as everything else we’ve talked about. Because you want to be easily found, you want a way for people to contact you besides just messaging you on Linked In. Not everyone likes to chat on there, and more importantly, lots of people are terrible about checking their Linked In messages. Put your e-mail address in your contact info section. If you have a website, showcase it here. Your website is another tool that sells you and whoever is looking for you on Linked In should be able to easily click to it.
Linked In is a search engine and you need to have lots of information there to make you searchable. You want to be found.
In life we have different levels of relationships. There are spouses, family members, and best friends, good friends, and work friends. Then there are the people you don’t like, but have to deal civilly with including sometimes family, neighbors (I’m thinking of a disastrous HOA meeting), and often work colleagues and bosses. It is important to recognize that we don’t deal with all of these groups in the same way.
Last week we talked about building your cheer squad with positive people. This group is who you celebrate your wins with and share your dreams.
A, B, C or D?
In Hollywood terms, let’s call them your A list. Then there are good friends, who you like, but are not quite as close too – the B list. The C list is other folks you like, but don’t see often and work friends. And finally there’s the D list, those people that you don’t like, but have to deal with. Always smile and be cordial, but never, ever tell the D list your good news or anything personal. They do not wish you well.
This discussion is not meant to be a downer or make you paranoid. Instead, I want to encourage you to not only build your core group of support, but to understand that there is power in recognizing where people fit into your list. And that it is smart not to share everything with everybody. People can always surprise you in both good and bad ways. This way I hope you can be more prepared.
Cheerleader or Debbie Downer?
Notice how people react not just to your good news, but to others’ good news. This is a huge clue to their character. Years ago I had a colleague whose wife got her dream job. I was more excited about it than he was. All he said was “Yeah, now we’re going to have to figure out child care.” Yikes! Psychologists have long known that it not just the good news, but how others react when we share it, that makes us feel excited and energized. Unfortunately, lots of people react negatively or make it about them or do both. If someone does something like this to you, don’t give them the opportunity to do it again.
T.D. Jakes’ Three Kinds of Friends
Pastor T.D. Jakes famously said there are three kinds of friends: confidantes, constituents, & comrades. He talks about knowing who you are dealing with and who to share your good news with. You can watch the inspiring video here. It’s one of my favorites.
1. Confidantes are for you. If you’re up, they’re up. If you’re down, they’re down. This is your cheer squad.
2. Constituents are not for you. They are for what you are for. These are people that can seem supportive, but never think that they on your A List. If they meet someone who can further their agenda, they will align with them to get what they want. It is easy to mistake a constituent for a confidante.
3. Comrades not for you, and they not for what you are for. They are for what you are against. As soon as you are no longer fighting a common enemy, they disappear. I’ve noticed a lot of work friends, if you have a bad boss, can fall into this category.
I hope you found this discussion helpful. Take a look at the people you surround yourself with. Where do they fit in? Are the confidantes, constituents, or comrades? Who is your cheer squad?
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Last week I wrote about the power of following up and lots of you responded. It was wonderful to reconnect with so many of you! After I hit send, I had a few more thoughts.
If it has been a while since you spoke or you met at a networking event, remind who you are reaching out to when and where you met.
Avoid apologizing for the gap in your communication. Everyone is busy. I promise that no one is thinking about how long it’s been since they’ve heard from you. Instead, try something like, “Can you believe it’s been three years since we met at that business conference.” Or the generic “It’s been too long” is always a good opener.
To remind myself when I where I met people, I always write that info in the notes section of my contacts. I also include anything else we talked about like the names of their children or their favorite project. These notes are immensely helpful when I am following up. I don’t rely on my memory. I write everything down.
Almost everybody is bad at following up, myself included. These days there are too many emails, social media messages, texts, and phone calls to respond to. Even worse, most big companies have eliminated executive assistants so people’s precious spare work time is filled with scheduling meetings and filling out expense reports. People running small companies and solopreneurs are on their own too. This message overload is why when you do follow up, it is almost always appreciated and answered with a positive response. Following up is wonderful because it helps whomever you are reaching out to with a gentle reminder. Whether you are trying to set a lunch, say nice to meet you, or get a project approved, you are immediately top of mind and busy people are grateful for the help.
Thank you notes and updates are the two most powerful follow ups. Thank you notes are impactful because, sadly most people don’t write them. A simple thank you note, either emailed or handwritten, will make you stand out from the crowd. You can combine a thank you note with an update, if someone helped you or offered advice. A quick note about how you implemented a suggestion or even how a project is going can make someone’s day. I can’t tell you how many people I have asked to keep in touch with me and haven’t. I would be thrilled to hear from any of them.
Keith Ferrazzi in Never Eat Lunch Alone says that a 24 hour follow up after meeting someone new is optimal. He may right, but that is not always possible, especially if you are at a conference meeting hundreds of people. Keith’s rule actually made me stop following up for a while, because I often didn’t do it within 24 hours. And then I realized that it is never too late. Even if it is months or sometimes years since you promised you would follow up, people will be glad to hear from you. You know why? Because they haven’t followed up with you either! They’re not going to be upset that you haven’t reached out because they haven’t reached out. Instead, they will be glad to hear from you. So when in doubt follow up!
My challenge to you today is to follow up with somebody that you’ve been wanting to reach out to, but feel uncomfortable because the amount of time that has passed. Just do it! What is the worst that can happen? I always ask myself this when I’m feeling some resistance to doing something. The worst thing that can happen is you get no answer and so you are the same place you were before you reached out. But most likely you will reconnect and reinvigorate either a work or personal relationship, and who knows what happens from there!
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Hi I’m Lindsey!
I love helping people discover their superpower, create compelling content, and feel excited about pitching and networking.