Here's the Most Effective Way to Start an Email (and the Greetings You Should Avoid)

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iStock

White-collar workers spend an average of four hours per day checking business-related emails, according to a recent Adobe survey of more than 1000 office employees. Want to ensure your message actually gets read and leaves a positive impression on the recipient? A carefully crafted introduction goes a long way, according to Business Insider, which spoke with business-etiquette expert Barbara Pachter and Will Schwalbe, co-author of the 2010 book Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

Chances are you’ve sent a cold query that opened with the phrase ‘To whom it may concern…’—but according to BI, the only thing anyone should be concerned about is coming up with a different opener. This one is impersonal and dull, and worst of all, it may make the recipient think the email isn’t actually meant for them.

Informal (read: unprofessional) greetings to avoid include “Hey!”, “Hey there!”, and “Yo!” On the flip side, “Dear Ma’am” is way too formal and may even be offensive to some women who feel like the term is ageist. (Other too-stiff greetings include “Dear Sir or Madam,” and Mr./Mrs./Ms. [last name].)

When in doubt, simply write ‘Hi [name]’—and if you feel like being more reserved, you can always opt to use the recipient’s last name. In the meantime, you can learn which other forms of address are best banned from work emails by checking out Business Insider’s full article.

[h/t Business Insider]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

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Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Google Is Tracking Everything You Do With Its ‘Smart’ Features—Here’s How to Make That Stop

Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Taryn Elliott, Pexels

Since we don’t all have personal assistants to draft emails and update our calendars, Google has tried to fill the void with ‘smart’ features across Gmail, Google Chat, and Google Meet. These automatic processes cover everything from email filtering and predictive text to notifications about upcoming bills and travel itineraries. But such personalized assistance requires a certain amount of personal data.

For example, to suggest email replies that match what you’d choose to write on your own—or remind you about important emails you’ve yet to reply to—Google needs to know quite a bit about how you write and what you consider important. And that involves tracking your actions when using Google services.

For some people, Google’s helpful hints might save enough time and energy to justify giving up full privacy. If you’re not one of them, here’s how to disable the ‘smart’ features.

As Simplemost explains, first open Gmail and click the gear icon (settings) in the upper right corner of the page. Select ‘See all settings,’ which should default to the ‘General’ tab. Next to ‘Smart Compose,’ ‘Smart Compose personalization,’ and ‘Smart Reply,’ choose the ‘Off’ options. Next to ‘Nudges,’ uncheck both boxes (which will stop suggestions about what emails you should answer or follow up on). Then, switch from the ‘General’ tab to ‘Inbox’ and scroll down to ‘Importance markers.’ Choose ‘No markers’ and ‘Don’t use my past actions to predict which messages are important.’

Seeing these settings might make you wonder what other information you’ve unwittingly given Google access to. Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy way to customize it. If you open the ‘Accounts’ tab (beside ‘Inbox’) and choose ‘Google Account settings,’ there’s an option to ‘Take the Privacy Checkup.’ That service will walk you through all the privacy settings, including activity tracking on Google sites, ad personalization, and more.

[h/t Simplemost]