Among the ranks of the most commonly used channels of communication at the workplace, emails prominently feature up top. For most employees, the very first thing they do when they get to their desk is to log on to their computers and read and reply to emails.
Whether it’s communicating with business associates from without, such as suppliers and customers or internally, with other staff members, emails are undoubtedly the most preferred communication method. On any given day, and depending on the nature of their job, each employee responds and sends out an average of at least 5 emails.
Why Email Etiquette?
Email etiquette encompasses all the rules and principles that define what is acceptable or the best practices when it comes to writing and responding to emails. It’s a crucial area that every working adult, whether a business owner, manager or company employee needs an instruction on since mastering this area holds numerous benefits. Failure to grasp this concept, on the other hand, surely poses great professional threat and risk to both person and company.
Standard for Professionalism
In a setting as crucial as the workplace, everything, including how to send and/or respond to emails, will be used as a standard to gauge your personality and even more importantly, your professionalism. For this reason, an understanding of email etiquette is very important. Failure to observe the most elementary of email etiquette can do irreversible damage to professional relationships and bring to waste any efforts made at professional growth and expanding networks.
Poor email etiquette can lead to serious miscommunication and misunderstandings that my end up in very costly mistakes for the business. When it comes to email etiquette, it is about how you say something as much as it about what you actually do say. A strict adherence to email etiquette means that roper emphasis will be placed on the action that is required in response to the email. With a better understanding of the subject, you can expect that appropriate course of action will be taken that will encourage efficiency in all the operations of the business.
With an appreciation of just how crucial email etiquette is for any business, here are a few actionable tips to apply at your workplace for a professional and more efficient flow of business.
1. Your Choice of an Email Address
The most ideal choice is an email address that instills confidence of your professionalism. No one would be blamed for not taking you seriously if your choice for an email address is some flamboyant address such as email@example.com ,“ “firstname.lastname@example.org or similar. You may also be tempted to give others a peek at your personality with emails such as “deborahthebirdlover94@ rocketmail.com” but it is always a very unprofessional choice. Quite frankly, most people may consider such as very childish.
Using a company email address is always a brilliant idea. Similarly, your choice of email address should be able to give whoever you are corresponding with an idea of exactly who you are at the very first glance. For example, with an address such as jasongray@hr_bubblyinflatables.com , even the person sharing their very first interaction with the business can accurately gather that the email is from a Jason Gray, working with Bubbly Inflatables within their HR department. A signature block at the end of an email would also serve the same purpose. Include only the most crucial information as you introduce yourself.
2. Be Specific in Your Subject Line
A subject line is exactly that; a line for the subject of the email. Ensure that the subject appropriately matches the content that is included the body of the email. Be careful with your wording for the same. Ensure that it is direct to the point and observe brevity. Also format the subject line accordingly. It goes without saying that the subject line very well determines whether or not the recipient will even bother opening the email.
An all-caps and very long subject line such as “REMINDER TO ALL OUR CUSTOMERS OF OUR ANNUAL CLEARANCE SALE ON ALL STOCK ITEMS HAPPENING THIS SUNDAY” has a greater probability of ending up in the spam box. In this case, you can be sure that your business will have lost an opportunity to generate revenue.
3. Addressing Your Contact
Observe a level of formality as befits any professional correspondence. Gerald, the company CFO may be your golfing buddy, and even the godfather to your daughter, but when it comes to work-related emails, a professional courteous “Dear Mr. Gerald” will do just perfectly.
For new contacts especially, assuming a very informal address at the very first interaction can give off quite the negative first impression and it may seriously injure your chances at repeat business. Others may not exactly appreciate the formality, but as a rule of thumb, only do so upon request. If a new client insists that you refer to him by their first name after that first contact, then by all means do so. The customer is, after all, always right.
4. Trim Your List of Recipients
Too many people tend to misuse the “to” and “cc” fields of an email. Avoid clogging users’ inboxes by ensuring that everyone included in your list of recipients has a direct involvement with the subject addressed in your email.
It would look quite unprofessional to cc the customer service and support departmental head in an email that directly addresses an intra-departmental issue in your legal support department. Make deliberate effort to ensure that all those included in the list of recipients derive a direct benefit from the email and that all correspondences are on a strict need-to-know basis.
On the same note, be wary of the “Reply All” button and ensure that you send the right message to the right people always.
5. Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation Checks
Always read through your email before hitting send to ascertain that your draft has pristine grammar, spelling and punctuation. There is no excuse for typos. Poor grammar and spelling reflects poorly on your professionalism and recipients would be rightly excused for even questioning your level of education.
Similarly, a misplaced comma or semi-colon or any other punctuation mark can completely alter the meaning of a sentence. Always make the time to proofread your email before sending it out.
6. Avoid Acronyms, Shortcuts, Slang and Over –using Exclamation Marks
Never assume that the recipient has a perfect grasp of all the acronyms. DIY, POD and others may seem like such common acronyms, but there may be one who has no idea what they mean. As such, use acronyms sparingly and if possible, completely avoid them. Another pitfall that most people fall into that is very damaging to professionalism is the use of slang and shortcuts. “This product is perfect just 4 U” has no professional ring to it. Even when corresponding with contacts with whom you have established a relationship, slang is an absolute no-no when it comes to business emails.
Using more than one exclamation mark in your email makes it look unprofessional and downright emotional. Without intending to, overuse of exclamation marks can lead to a misinterpretation of your tone and you may even run the risk of being reported for harassment.
7. Clean Up Your Email
Be very careful when forwarding emails. I personally get quite frustrated when I have to look through the numerous other email addresses to which the email has been sent. This is not to mention the carets and other symbols that can completely discourage one from reading the email.
Before you send it, take the time to clean it up. It is as simple as just selecting all that mess and hitting delete. It sure doesn’t take too much time and the professional look that is as a result of the clean-up is definitely worth the effort.
8. Get Organized
There may be so much that you wish to communicate, but for the purpose of mutual understanding and organization, ensure that you address just on subject per email. If you need an inventory update, then go ahead and ask for one. It would be much easier for the recipient to mix up requests or not properly prioritize the requests if you send an email asking for an inventory update, a list of the newly inducted employees, a request to send some products for repair and maintenance and others.
Being organized by sticking to one subject per email not only promotes efficiency in day-to-day activities, it also helps with filing and reference.
9. Number of Emails per Subject?
Always be concise in your email exchanges. Be clear on the course of action you wish to have taken and address it to the right person. As a rule, 2-3 should be the maximum number of emails per subject. Always avoid one-liners that add no tangible value to the subject under discussion.
10. How Long is Too Long?
For most people, trying to keep up with the above rule, erroneously leads them to another pitfall; that is, sending long emails. I know I don’t like having to comb through endless paragraphs just to get the exact meaningful content of an email, do you? Organize all the relevant points accordingly and if need be use numbers or bullet points to highlight the most crucial points.
An email should only be a few paragraphs long, with every line being content-laden. If the content cannot be covered adequately in an email exchange, then an alternative method of communication such as a phone call or a face-to-face discussion should be considered.
11. Of Email Attachments
When it comes to sending attachments, it is always the best practice to ask before sending, and more so if the file is quite big. Large attachments can clog the recipients’ inbox and may cause other emails to bounce. A file size in the range of tens of MBS can really do so much inconvenient clogging.
There is compression software that you can use to make the files smaller and easier for the recipient to download. You can also resize photos and pictures to an appropriate size and style before attaching them.
Name each attachment accordingly so that the recipient gets a clue of the subject just by looking at the name.
12. Handling Sensitive and Confidential Content
Cyber-crime is an unfortunate reality, and you may unfortunately end up a victim of hacking and other cyber-crimes. Stay ahead by taking the precaution of not discussing overly sensitive and confidential content over an email exchange. Information such as specific bank account details and the likes should be shelved for a more secure communication channel.
13. Acknowledging Receipt
Not many, but some people, myself included, appreciate being notified that their emails have been received by the intended recipient. This is particularly so where the subject may need immediate attention or is of a highly sensitive nature. The sender may want to know that the email did not end up in the spam box; so, for their peace of mind, acknowledge receiving the email.
14. Ending Your Email
How to appropriate end an email can prove quite challenging. For most people, choosing a formal ending over an informal one or the other way round is quite the dilemma. Similarly, you may want to go with an ending that is a perfect balance between formal and informal.
How then, should you end your email? For any professional correspondence, a “Thank You, Kind Regards” ending should suffice and you can never go wrong with this. It is neither too formal nor too informal and is appropriate for every situation.
15. Timely Response
Every received email should be responded to in a timely fashion. Even if the action that the email calls for will not be implemented immediately, a timely response letting the sender know that you are working on it is most appropriate. Similarly, there are time-sensitive exchanges that need an absolutely prompt response. Such high-priority emails should be replied to first before all others.
Enough emphasis cannot be placed on just how important a subject email etiquette s for any business or company. Your mannerisms when it comes to email exchanges may make you or break your business. These, among other actionable tips will help improve your email etiquette to the benefit of all stakeholders.