EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Sad to say, the typical email cover notes I see bear a strong resemblance to classic kidnap notes.

You know the ones I mean. Randomly selected letters and words cut from magazines and newspapers and pasted together on a piece of paper to communicate a demand for money.

Perhaps this is a little harsh, and I apologize in advance, but my son sent me a funny saying recently: “Any fool can use a computer. Many do.”

Yes, that TV looking screen in front of you with the typewriter keyboard is a COMPUTER, and you would be best advised to figure out how to use it. It honestly isn’t that hard.

The “troubles” probably began quite some time ago when Microsoft decided to make Outlook appear more professional and allow you to write your messages in something other than plain text. The problem is that they forgot to coordinate with Word. (Back in the day, Outlook Express was a totally plain text program.)

The theory is that you should write any important message in Word and then paste it into Outlook after you are sure it is correct. A great idea, except that pasting directly from Word brings with it Word formatting. The end result is not “a pretty picture.”

I’m a Times New Roman, plain text kind of guy. If you are going to write in Word and transfer the results, you need to make sure that the result doesn’t embarrass you. The primary problems include extra lines between paragraphs and multiple fonts in your email.

I’m sure there are many workarounds. One easy one that I use from time to time is to first paste what you have written into Notepad and then “copy, paste” into your email. Another solution is to see if you have a choice when you paste. “Merge Formatting” (the right facing arrow) is one possibility. Another is to paste using the capital A which means Keep Text Only.

If you are merging various sections together from other sources, before you hit send, copy everything in your note and then paste it back using Keep Text Only. I think you will see that the result is much better. You might also try sending any important message to yourself first to see if you have fixed all the formatting issues.

Your goal is to appear to be the consummate professional that I assume you are. If you had a personal secretary in your last job who handled all of your correspondence, get over it. The odds of your having one in your new job are slim to none. The time is now for you to master your computer, and sending properly formatted emails is an important goal.

If you aren’t using Outlook, take the time to figure out whatever email system you are using and determine what it takes to get professionally appearing and uniform emails. Nothing says sloppy more than too many lines between paragraphs or none at all and multiple fonts in a message.

Call me a nitpicker, and I’ve been called worse, but my guess is some of the folks you are writing to about senior level jobs are just hitting the delete key when they get your sloppy messages.

Please, work with me on this. My simple goal is to help you get you a high paying job. I can’t do that if you keep sending me (and others) kidnap notes.

Regards, Matt

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