Monday, November 22, 2010

Lessons in Modesty: M is for Manners Mondays!

So why "A Modest Bride" you ask? Well modesty doesn't just describe my financial means. It describes the way I conduct myself out in the world. I grew up being taught the importance of manners. The importance of respecting yourself and others. Over the last 5 years or so, at the dawn of the age of Facebook and the reign of e-mail and instant messaging, I've noticed an unfortunate decline in my generation of general manners and thoughtfulness. So I thought I would begin a weekly "column" on appropriate ways to conduct oneself in life, and how to adhere to time-honored and accepted social graces. And as someone in the midst of planning a wedding, this becomes very important!

However, I thought I would start out with something not exactly wedding-related, but a universal truism related to email correspondence. My first "M is for Manners" Monday segment is about the age-old email form letter. I am in the process of obtaining hotel room blocks for my wedding, and have chosen two different hotels for my guests' convenience. After speaking with a sales rep at one hotel for nearly 1/2 an hour about the wedding and our guest room needs, I received the following follow up email last Friday:
Dear Jackie,
Thank you for choosing the (hotel name here) for your son’s wedding.  We host many weddings every year.  Keeping groups satisfied is my specialty.  I look forward to working with you.  I will get the marriage license information and send it to you soon.
Your group agreement is attached to this email.  Please sign it and return it by 10/22/10.

First, let's note that I DO NOT have a son. Nor any children for that matter. And I was asked what my role in the wedding was, to which I responded that I was the bride. Second, last Friday's date was 11/19. I'm not sure exactly how I'm supposed to submit a contract retroactively. Clearly this email was used for someone else, and I find it disheartening and sad that for a large hotel chain trying to win my business, this sales person can't even take an extra 5 minutes to proofread her correspondence with me, and edit it appropriately so that it feels like it was personalized. 

This can be extrapolated and applied to emailed cover letters or resume submissions as well. Folks, take the time and the energy and the care to re-read your emails before you send them! Form letters are great in that they save you time, but don't embarrass yourself/ruin your chances of getting that interview/risk losing a potential customer by being completely careless. Here are a few tips to help safeguard yourself against this very awkward situation:

1) Prior to resending a form letter, jot down 2-3 things that only apply to this person or company. This will make it very easy to personalize your note. For example, the individual above could have mentioned the venue I chose and/or the time of year of the wedding. 

2) Copy and paste your form letter in the a Word or TextEdit or WordPad document. This forces you to actually re-edit your letter, rather than slapping it immediately into a blank email.

3) Go through the letter and delete ALL mentions of the previous person/company/situation BEFORE adding the new person/company/situation specific details.

4) After copying & pasting your edited letter into a blank email, re-read it one more time before inserting the recipient's email address. This will allow you to catch anything that you missed when editing in document form. And if you're feeling rushed, save a draft of the email, send another email or two, and then come back to it before you send. 

An extra 5-10 of care when sending a form letter by email will save you more than embarrassment. It will show that you respect yourself and those who are on the receiving end of your communication, ensuring that your name rises to the top of the proverbial list. If your first introduction to someone is over e-mail, do it right the first time! 

Until next Monday.... I am also happy to take suggestions on hot topics regarding manners! Please leave comments if there's a topic that's in desperate need of addressing!

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