In today’s modern office, a typical employee may receive a hundred or more emails every single day. These emails may range from extremely urgent to low priority office chatter. Due to the high volume of emails being sent, it has become increasingly difficult for employees to read, review, and respond to them all in a single day plus get through all of their daily tasks and projects. Understanding the basics of email etiquette is more important now than ever. Follow the below 15 tips to master email etiquette and communicate more effectively with your team members and clients.
1 – Write a clear and precise subject line. The subject line is one of the most important parts of an email. It is the first thing someone sees when your email pops up on their screen. The subject line will either incite someone to open up your email and read it or may cause the email to be ignored or possibly even deleted. The subject line needs to be clear to all email recipients. It may also help to note if an action is required of the recipient in the subject line.
2- Keep emails short and to the point. It is important to remember that people are busy often juggling multiple projects, clients, and responsibilities at once. They don’t have time to sort through long and complicated emails and will often ignore or set them aside for later review. Use clear language and let the recipient/recipients know right away the purpose of the email and the expectations of the sender.
3 – Be mindful of the tone of the email. It is important to remember that email communication differs drastically from face to face conversations. The email recipient doesn’t have the benefit of reading your body language, facial expressions, or the tone of your voice. All they see are the words in front of them on the email. An email that was intended to be funny may actually come across as rude and unprofessional. Humor and sarcasm can be easily misread and should be avoided when possible in emails.
4 – Watch punctuation. It is common in today’s society to end a sentence with six exclamation points when trying to convey excitement or to avoid proper use of periods especially when texting or writing on social media sites. A sentence with six exclamation points may be fine in a text to your friend but will come across as immature and unprofessional at work. Always use proper punctuation when writing/responding to emails in a professional setting.
5 – Be careful with acronyms. Companies will often use acronyms to shorten common phrases or groups within their company or industry. These may be well known in an industry or specific to a certain company or department. When writing emails using acronyms, review the recipient list and determine if the acronym will be easily understood by everyone on the email. Make sure that the acronym is clear and easily identified by all.
6 – Focus on one topic at a time. Emails that cover multiple topics at once are often long, confusing, and hard to follow. Typically, only certain topics actually apply to each recipient. If the recipient starts reading the email and notices that the first portion does not apply to them, they may stop reading and delete the email. This may cause them to miss vital information further down the body of the email.
7 – Utilize bullet points to organize your email. If you are laying out several facts or ideas related to one topic, utilize bullet points to draw attention to them in the email. Multiple points are often missed when reading through a paragraph. The bullet points will capture the recipient’s attention and draw attention to each and every point listed in the email body.
8 – Always proofread before sending an email. Have you ever received an email, opened it up, and then immediately caught several grammatical errors? You were probably annoyed with the sender for not taking the time to re-read their email before sending. Sometimes, it can be hard to catch these types of mistakes when feverishly typing an email. Always take a minute to read through your email again before sending. Make sure that the spelling and punctuation are correct and that your points all make sense and are easy to follow. People will notice when an email is full of mistakes.
9 – Double check your recipient list. Before sending an email, take the time to review the recipient list, and double check that you have included all relevant parties. Forgetting to include someone on an email may cause them to be hurt, annoyed, or even put them at a disadvantage. It may also force the email to be forwarded to people outside of the initial recipient list. This can be problematic especially when there are a lot of responses going back and forth. The person who was not on the original email, will not see all of the responses and may miss important information causing a project to be delayed or unsuccessful.
10- End each email with your signature. A typical signature will include your name, job title, company address, phone number, fax, and email address. It is important to include all relevant information on the signature. If you are asking a client to call you for a quick touch base than they will need your phone number readily available. If you are expecting a fax, you would have needed to supply your fax number. It is typically the best practice to include all of this information on your signature to make communication run as smooth as possible.
11- Ask before sending large files in an attachment. Large files may take a long time to process and could clog the recipient’s inbox. It is always best to ask first and let the intended recipient know the file size so that they can prepare accordingly. They may be waiting for an important email to come through and could ask you to hold off on sending the file until later that day.
12 – Don’t share private information via email. People have a tendency to develop close relationships with people they see frequently. It is not uncommon to start friendships with co-workers and to share details of your personal life with them. Remember that emails may live on your company servers for quite a long time and can also be easily forward to others. If the contents of an email are too private to be shared with everyone in your office than don’t send out that private information via email.
13- Don’t email when angry. We have all experienced frustrating days at the office. Lazy co-workers, a difficult boss, or a poorly executed meeting may set you off on a rampage. You are so frustrated that you start typing up an email outlining all of the reasons for your anger. That type of email may come off as hot tempered and unprofessional. Before sending any emails written in anger it is very important to calm down and walk away from the situation for a while. Once you feel calm again, reread the email to make sure that you really want to send it. You should never send any emails that make you seem petty, childish, or unprofessional.
14 – Only reply-all to an email when necessary. As noted earlier, an average person may get 100+ emails a day. You don’t want to add to that email clutter with a response targeted to one or two people on the initial recipient list. Before responding, review the names of the people on the email chain and edit as necessary. This helps keep unnecessary emails from piling up in people’s inboxes and helps you get your point across to the people that need to be in the know.
15 – Read and respond to emails in a timely manner. Most emails are sent because the sender is in need of additional data, instructions, or approval. A delayed response may put a project at risk and could cause the sender to feel ignored and unimportant. Set aside time each day to read through your emails and respond accordingly.
Please remember that email is only one form of communication and isn’t always the best way to handle every situation. If you notice a long chain of emails on one topic, it may be best to hold a quick meeting to address everyone’s questions, concerns and to get everyone on the same page. Emails can’t always take the place of a great face to face meeting however mastering effective email communication is integral to your success in a professional working environment.