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How to Avoid Sounding Stupid in a Voice E-mail

Who hasn't left a cringe-worthy message? Here's how to make sure it never happens again.


  • Step 1: Think it through Think about what you want to say before you make the call. If you tend to ramble, write it down in bullet-point or list form.
  • TIP: Avoid repeating "I," as in "I want," "I need," "I'd like." Making the call all about you is off-putting.
  • Step 2: Pick a quiet spot Dial from a quiet spot so your message doesn't compete with background noise.
  • Step 3: Begin with your phone number Leave your phone number toward the beginning of the message, so the person doesn't have to listen to the whole rigmarole again just to jot it down. Then, repeat it at the end so they can double-check it.
  • TIP: Speak slowly enough when leaving your phone number so that the person you're calling can easily understand it and write it down.
  • Step 4: Be brief Keep it short. Think of it as a three-part message: who you are, the subject you're calling about, and what you would like the person to do.
  • Step 5: Enunciate Even if you sound kinda stupid to everyone around you, if you speak clearly and not mutter, it will be much easier to understand for anyone who is listening. Remember, the call quality might be poor, especially if it is on speaker phone.
  • Step 6: Smile Smile as you speak. Research shows that smiles are detectable in your voice, and put the listener in a better mood to receive your message.
  • FACT: In 1935, Willy Muller invented the world's first answering machine, a three-foot-tall apparatus for Orthodox Jews, who can't answer the phone on the Sabbath.

You Will Need

  • Forethought
  • A quiet spot
  • Brevity
  • A smile

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