E-mail is still alive and well in small business. It's the lifeblood of our work day and the primary way we all communicate with one another.

Forget texting, phone calls, and social media--they are important, but they are nowhere near as valuable as e-mail. It's safe to say that business operates at the speed of e-mail. We use it to discuss business deals, set pay rates, and even hire people. Without it, we'd all have to tweet each other, and how painful would that be?

Interestingly enough, while we depend so much on e-mail, we're not always good at it. I'm guilty of sending rapid fire e-mails without thinking about what I'm doing enough, but lately I've tried to do a last minute "flight check" on every new message. Here's what I do to make sure I don't have egg on my face.

1. Are you sending it to the right person?

This is the place to start when sending an e-mail. I'd write this in all caps if it didn't seem like I was yelling: Make sure you check the recipient. I've sent emails complaining about someone before...to the person I'm complaining about. I've also relayed some personal info to people. The most common mistake is typing a first name as the recipient and then choosing the wrong person, but not double-checking it before you click send.

2. Did you forget to blind copy?

Ah, the dreaded blind copy mishap. I love them! They always lead to some afternoon humor and a few chuckles. Someone forgets to blind copy a bunch of people and you get to see who they are and can then contact them yourself. I once received a message where almost every one of my colleagues working in business journalism was copied (oops).

3. Is there anything misspelled?

Don't trust the spell checker! When it comes to technical terms, names, businesses, and grammar (e.g., effect not affect), do a final check to make sure everything is copacetic in your message. Get into the habit of reading through your message one last time and scan for misspelled words. You won't end up looking like a dofuss (sic).

4. Are you saying anything that could be misconstrued?

E-mail is the medium you want for exchanging information, asking questions, or discussing the progress on a project. It's perfect for disseminating information quickly and efficiently. It is not the right choice for anything remotely controversial. If you are sending a message that could be considered offensive or will cause conflict, make a phone call instead. E-mail is a bad way to confront people.

5. Do you have a full signature line with phone and address?

You'd be surprised how often people store messages and look back at them. If you there isn't at least a phone number and an address in your message, the recipient has no way to contact you today...or three years from now. I'm a big believer in including a signature line because it also makes you message look more official and adds credibility.

6. Are you sure?

Before you click send, just ask one three-word question: are you sure? If I have any doubts about sending an e-mail, if someone might be offended or question my approach, I wait an hour or so to think about it a little. (In Gmail, the message is automatically saved to Drafts, which is handy.) If you are not really sure about the e-mail, pick up the phone instead. Don't send your next e-mail unless you are sure about it!

Published on: Oct 10, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.