Avoiding a communication faux pas

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

There are lots of ways to communicate digitally, but also lots of mistakes to be made too.

For instance, if you have ever needed to send someone a photo, the chances are that you will have sent them an email. That may well be fine for small images to a single recipient, but what happens if the image is not so small and the email is going to 50 different people?

Unnecessary traffic and disgruntled people complaining about their inboxes being filled up is what you get.

Naturally these days, short of sticking something massive onto a disk or USB stick, many people use cloud storage to share files. That is great, as it gives you a central location to share files with people you are working with. No duplicates are created at all.

However, it is not all peaches and cream. A lot of organisations have restrictions on the software they can download and install, and even on the websites they can use. My general advice if you are faced with an inflexible organisation, is to ask how they would like to receive the file first. It’s no good going ahead and sending a link to something on DropBox if the business you are dealing with does not use it, does not intend to use it and the person you are dealing with cannot get permission to use it.

Another common mistake when sending large files (especially images) is that in order to make them small enough to send, people crunch them down to save space. Sending something in a zip file will often flag your email as spam. The reason being that spammers are constantly trying to obfuscate the true purpose of a file inside zip files. The other problem comes when sending images that have been ‘optimised’ to make them smaller. Perhaps you have reduced the resolution or colour depth of the image. The problem is the resulting image is often poor quality and cannot be used by the recipient. Take this paper as an example, if you don’t send in a high quality image, then it won’t look great on the printed page and therefore won’t be used.

Again, to save yourself time and hassle, check how the recipient wants to receive the file before sending it.

If you have ever been copied into an email thread that has been going on for a bit already, you will likely have scrolled down to familiarise yourself with the conversation before responding. Here lies two problems!

The first comes about by overly long disclaimers and signatures. Disclaimers themselves are not needed, as they are implicit in the laws we all live by. Signatures can sometimes be too long, especially if they include graphics. What happens over the course of an email conversation, is that all of those disclaimers and signatures are duplicated over and over again. So much duplication can happen, that you are forced to scroll past pages and pages of things you don’t need to read. This adds frustration, but also means the emails are physically larger than needed.

The second issue, is that all previous messages are included by default when you reply to an email. So if you are copying someone in mid conversation, you had better be really sure there is nothing confidential they should not be seeing, or you could get yourself and your business into real trouble.

If you have communication faux pas you would like to share, please let me know!

Alan Stainer