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Answering Work Email at Home

Answering Work Email at Home | CorporetteDoes your boss send you emails at all hours? Are you expected to respond immediately to answer work email at home — either in a clear “policy” way or in an unspoken, pissy-but-won’t-tell-you-why way? Do you try to draw a line in the sand and purposely not reply during certain hours, even if you get the email? If you’re a supervisor or boss, do you make an intentional effort to not send email during nights and weekends? I’ve seen a lot of friends and readers bringing up this issue lately, so I thought we’d discuss.

Looking back — the BlackBerry hit the market when I was a second or third year in BigLaw. It was a sea change — before that you had to be sitting at a computer to log in to check your email.  I remember feeling like a rebel by setting my BlackBerry to turn off automatically every weeknight from 12am to 6 am, and (gasp!) 10 PM to 8 AM on weekends.  (I mostly did this because — without fail! — we’d get what amounted to a spam digest alert every single morning at 4 AM. My BB would vibrate loudly on the table in the tiny studio apartment I lived in then, waking me up and causing stress.)  Now that everyone has an iPhone, though, I feel like it’s every industry — no longer just lawyers, and no longer just high level employees.  For a while you could refuse to have work email on your phone, but I don’t even think that’s an option any more, at least for most workers. Of course, a lot of this comes down to “know your office” — as well as “know your boss.”

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Five Grammar Rules You Absolutely, Seriously Have to Know

Grammar RulesIf you want to be taken seriously as a professional, good grammar matters! Particularly for lawyers, where you get major points for knowing your Bluebook and local style conventions, there can be some serious grammar nerds around — and they will judge you if you use “none” as a plural or confuse further and farther. Even those of us not working with grammar nerds need to get at least SOME grammar rules straight, though! This is my list of the five grammar rules you must know if you want to be taken seriously:

  1. Your/You’re
  2. They’re/Their/There
  3. Its/It’s — and other general apostrophe problems.
  4. Proper use of commas. This a huge topic, but it’s one worth knowing well because so many things can go wrong with commas. Whether it’s an error like “eats, shoots & leaves” or an error like “I’m coming to eat Grandfather,” they drive me batty. This Grammarly page looks like a good overview.
  5. Word choice — specifically as it applies to your industry. This is a pretty open ended suggestion, but in some ways it matters the most! For example, you wouldn’t want to work with a First Amendment lawyer who used “slander” and “libel” interchangeably… or a wedding planner who misspelled “stationery.” You should be absolutely sure you understand the meaning and proper usage of any words you use often at work, as well as any terms of art.

Ladies, what does your list of “must know” grammar rules include? Which grammar mistakes bug you the most? (Here’s our last discussion on grammar annoyances.)  

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Do You Send Holiday Cards to Friends and Colleagues?

MoMA Evergreen Doves Holiday Cards | CorporetteHoliday cards: do you send them? To friends or colleagues or both? What kind of cards do you send, and do you have any rules about it? It’s been eons since we last discussed holiday cards! (Pictured: MoMA Evergreen Doves holiday cards, $18.45 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I think there are two kinds of people: those who send cards, and those who really don’t. I’m definitely in the first camp, although I’ll admit that the kinds of cards I’ve sent to friends and family have definitely changed since I’ve had kids. While I used to send pretty cards from museum stores and so forth, now I go to Shutterfly, Minted, or the like to get custom photo cards. But I don’t send those cards to people I know through the business (and because business is e-based, sending a physical card seems weird anyway!) — and I can’t see myself sending them to coworkers in my law school days unless I counted them a friend first, colleague second. (Over at CorporetteMoms we’ve talked about how to avoid sending what some of my single friends have joked about as “smug holiday cards.”)

As far as rules go, I can’t think of a time when I haven’t gone with a fairly neutral greeting like “Season’s Greetings!” or “Merry and bright!” just for efficiency’s sake. I always order a few extra in case someone sends me a card who for whatever reason didn’t get a card in the first round I sent them.

So I’m curious, ladies: Do you send cards to friends? To colleagues? What do you think about receiving them? Have you ever received one from a coworker that made you raise an eyebrow? 

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Faxes from Older Colleagues: Should You Reply by Email?

replying to faxes with emailDoes a faxed letter from a colleague require another fax in reply, or is it acceptable to respond with an email message? What if the differences in communication are due to an age difference between you?

Reader M wonders:

I’ve got a question about professional correspondence. I work in a boutique transactional law firm that rarely handles any matters in court, and if so, it is uncontested and just needs to proved up. I find that when older attorneys need to communicate with me on something, they tend to prepare actual letters and then send it via fax. Is it unprofessional for me to respond with an e-mail? Our office is mostly paperless and even the courts have gone to an e-filing system, so printing a hard copy of a letter just seems unnecessary. If I keep the language in my e-mail formal, is that enough?

Interesting question, M!  We’ve talked a lot about correspondence, including when to use last names, the best way to send thank you notes after interviews (and when to send follow-up emails), hyphenated names and email addresses, and conveying tone in emails. I’m really curious to hear what the readers say about this dilemma.  For my $.02:

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Hypenated Names and Email Addresses

Hyphenated Names and Email Addresses | CorporetteWhat IS the convention on hyphenated names and email addresses? Does it matter if you have a long, unwieldy email address? We’ve talked about how to choose a last name (as well as name change after divorce), but never about email addresses and names, and Reader E wonders…

I was wondering if you have any advice on professional email addresses for people with hyphenated last names.

My law firm used to have a convention of using three initials (first, middle, last) for everyone’s email addresses. Last week, the firm announced a new email convention of first initial, full last name. We can have more than one active email address.

The three initials created a problem for me because I never use my middle name, and everyone assumed my email address was first initial, first last initial, second last initial. Now, if I follow the new convention, my email address will be a messy 13 letters long, and there’s the additional question of whether to use a hyphen. I assume a hyphen would look even worse because there will not be any separation between my first initial and first last name.

I want to ask IT for a completely new email address. Is there a convention for people with hyphenated last names? Any tips?

I’m curious to hear from the readers here — what have you and your friends done? (Pictured: iprostocks/Shutterstock.)  I do have a few thoughts… for the purposes of discussion, let’s say her name is Jane (Marie) Smith-Doe: [Read more…]

That’s Ms. Griffin To You: When To Use Last Names

when to use mr. in businessWhen do you call work associates by their last name (such as Ms. Griffin), or by another title (such as Attorney Griffin)? Do you have a preference how work associates refer to you — and how do you communicate that? Does calling someone else “Ms. Griffin” make you look young?  I’ve gotten a number of questions about this lately — one from reader D who notes,

I work in legal services on the East Coast, and I’m a little stumped about how to address people. On the one hand, working with the legal services population makes me eager to address people with titles, using Mr./Ms./Mrs. So-and-So as a mark of respect for folks in my office who otherwise may feel disenfranchised. On the other hand, as a native West Coaster, this level of formality is not inherent in my being and I frequently find myself slipping and referring to people by their first names.

Meanwhile, reader J was fuming because

opposing counsel start[ed] calling me ‘Ms. X’ as opposed to ‘Attorney X’. I have never seen male attorneys addressed as other than ‘Attorney Y’. The devolution to ‘Ms. X’ is clearly intended as an insult by opposing counsel. Any good suggestions for a professional but firm response?

We’ve talked about a lot of name issues — how to correct colleagues if they call you the wrong first name, how to get rid of an old nickname, and more — but When to Use the Last Name is kind of a big one.  I suspect this is going to vary widely by region, so readers, please be sure to say where in general you are.  A few notes:

  • Never, ever use “Mrs.” in a business setting.  Marital status is completely irrelevant.  For my $.02, the only person who can call me Mrs. Griffin is my husband, at least until our son has playmates who are speaking in sentences.
  • Presume, in writing, that you should use the person’s last name, at least on a first correspondence (e.g., “Dear Mr. Smith”).  [Read more…]
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