Like it or not, email has become the default mode of communication for business (and, in many cases, our personal lives too). Writing and responding to the hundreds of emails we deal with every week takes up a shockingly large portion of our workday yet many professionals don’t understand how important appropriate email etiquette is for good business relationships. What some may see as a “quick and simple” message could be confusing to read, taken as an insult, or misunderstood as disagreement by the recipient.
With this simple guide, you can avoid the mistakes many people make when sending or receiving work messages, helping you maintain your credibility and professionalism.
1. Craft a clear, concise subject line
This is the first thing your recipient is going to see, and often how they decide if they’re going to open the email or not. If it’s too vague it may not seem important enough to open, and if it’s worded too “cleverly” it can be mistaken for a spammy sales pitch. Use just a few words to sum up the goal of your email, like “Availability for tomorrow’s meeting”. According to research, the most successful subject lines contain between 1-5 words.
2. Know when to use Reply, Reply All, CC, and/or BCC
Group emails can be very efficient for disseminating information to lots of people, but it can be a huge waste of time reading email chains that have nothing to do with you…yet if you ignore them, you might miss the crucial information eventually included that was meant for you. It can be helpful to only “reply all” if you believe the information is relevant to everyone on the list. BCC can be handy for including someone on just your reply without exposing them to all following replies.
3. Use appropriate greetings
Get off on the right foot by using a greeting befitting your recipient’s status. If you are contacting management far up the chain of command, a client that you don’t already have a warm relationship with, potential new business, or anyone to whom you’re trying to appear extra-respectful, it’s best to make your greeting as professional as possible. “Dear Ms. Blackwood”, “Hello Sgt. Mitchell”, and “Greetings Superintendent Bradshaw” all convey professional respect. When addressing coworkers on your own level or other less-formal relationships, “Hi” and “Hello everyone” work just fine. If you’re responding to an email you can generally dispense with the greeting entirely and get right to the point.
4. Be careful with humor
Having a good sense of humor can make you popular around the office, but in emails, jokes are easily lost in translation without facial expressions and vocal tone to provide context. Keep in mind that humor is very individualized, can be related directly ot culture and local vernacular. Something you find funny might not be funny to someone else. Therefore, it is better to leave the humor out of professional emails unless you know the recipient well and are confident they will “get it”.
5. Keep it brief
Respect your recipient’s time by keeping your messages as short as possible so they can understand your point and move on to other important work. Just like this tip!
6. Always proofread
Double-checking your message will save you from embarrassing spelling and grammar mistakes. Always keep in mind professionally written documents should rarely include emojis or an excess of exclamation points or fully-capitalized words. Conveniently, many email programs offer corrective suggestions as you write. For extremely important emails, it may be worthwhile to ask a coworker to review before clicking send.
7. Choose the right closing
A short summary statement is a fantastic way to cleanly wrap up your email and reiterate what you are expecting. “Hope to hear from you soon” or “Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at the meeting” help make it clear to the recipient what your expectations for the next step are. “Best Regards,” or “Sincerely,” make for an appropriate, professional sign-off above your full name above your signature. (Side, bonus tip. ALWAYS have a signature!)
8. Don’t use email for last-minute messages
An email may not be read in time if you’re rescheduling or canceling an appointment just before it was originally scheduled to take place. A phone call, or even a text, will probably be much more reliable for conveying your message in a timely manner. However, if you need to communicate with many people, and this is your only option, make sure to use the “high priority” function if available with the hope the red flag is attention-grabbing enough to encourage your recipient to open it in time.
Ultimately, every email relationship – and corporate image – is individual. What passes as appropriately professional for an office email may be perfect for one team but may be considered informal for another.
Using these guidelines for respectful, information-focused communication will never steer you wrong and will help keep your relationship with your coworkers, vendors, and possible clients positive and productive.. Sounds like a winning combination to us!
When you need help drafting and scheduling communications you send regularly, turn to the expert Wingmen at MaverickApp. With plenty of experience, they can guide you to the ultimate goal you are looking for: booking more sales calls.