When you work in an office environment, email is an essential part of your workday.
Whether you are sending an internal or external email, you are not only representing your company, you also are sharing your professionalism. What you say and how you say it speaks volumes about your career and credibility. You have the power to make a favorable — or unfavorable — impact on you and your organization.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
~ Warren Buffet
Email ranks among the leading ways professionals communicate in business today. According to a recent study by Radicati Group, the average office worker sends or receives about 126 emails a day and spends 25 percent of his/her time in their inbox. These lofty numbers (which can even be higher) reinforce the importance of showcasing the utmost in professionalism when tending to emails.
Do not treat email casually. Boost your credibility and overall professionalism by erring on safe side with these eleven email etiquette tips.
- Write a Clear, Concise Message on the Subject Line
This important detail often determines whether your email will even be read. Your subject line should clearly communicate and summarize the body of your email, short and to the point. For example: Tomorrow’s 4 p.m. Meeting is Cancelled. Avoid all caps or small caps, and check your spelling.
- Use Professional Salutations
Initially, you should assume the highest level of courtesy – Hello, Mr. Smith, Dear Ms. White, Good morning, Dr. Osborne – when emailing someone outside your organization whom you do not know. This sets the tone for professionalism. Often, your contact will reply, “Call me John” or “Please call me Sue.” Avoid “Hey Tom” or “Hi folks” or any other colloquial diction. Generally, informal salutations should be avoided in the workplace. You can determine the tone of formality by how contacts communicate to you. Most professionals use their first name in communications, though in a global workplace you’ll want to be mindful of cultural norms.
- Less is More
When writing your email, brevity is the name of the game. If you find you are getting rather lengthy, perhaps picking up the phone or scheduling a meeting is the better way to go. Most people will not read an email if it is more than two or three paragraphs long. Reread your email and look for ways to edit it. Getting right to the point is greatly appreciated.
- Display Professionalism
Avoid typing in all caps, using foul language, and sending inappropriate jokes. Remember once you hit the send button, your reputation, integrity, and trust travel along with the email.
- Use a Professional Signature
Your email signature is more than just your name and title; it reflects your company’s image. Most businesses have a policy regarding what is allowed and not allowed in your signature block. Your signature should include your contact information and website and adhere to the company’s brand. Refrain from adding personal messages or emoticons and leave colors for your personal, non-business email.
- Maintain a Level of Formality
Many think it’s okay to communicate informally in emails, and that may be fine after you’ve established a strong relationship. Err on the side of the consummate professional. Communicate as if you’re drafting a letter on company letterhead. Use black text and standard fonts. Avoid business jargon, abbreviations, and smiley faces – and limit your punctuation mark at the end of a sentence (like the exclamation point or question mark) to one. For example, “I’m looking forward to seeing you at the meeting tomorrow!” Not: “I’m looking forward to seeing you at the meeting tomorrow!!!”
- Do not Rely on Spell Check
Spell check and auto correct are not always your friend. Your grammar, typos, and spelling errors will not leave a good impression and could be a turnoff to the recipient. Take time to proofread your email from start to finish. Read it aloud a few times to catch typos or other mistakes. An email I once received intended to say, “Please read details of the pension plan.” Unfortunately, the person sending the email relied solely on spell check and did not take the time to review the email, which said, “Please read details of the penis plan.” Not good.
- Check the Attachment
As we hurry to send an email, it is often done in haste. Forgetting to include the attachment requires sending another email and more precious, valuable time. If you find yourself neglecting to include the attachment, send another email explaining, “My apologies for not attaching the document in my previous email; please refer to this email.”
- Reply All (Really?)
Use discretion. More often than not, don’t reply all. No one wants to receive emails that are completely unnecessary – not to mention annoying and distracting. And it goes without saying, never “reply all” to complain or tattle. You will appear petty and unprofessional.
- Be Careful with Humor
Not everyone sees humor the same way. What you think may be funny may not be funny to someone else. In a professional email, avoid humor unless you are sure the recipient will appreciate it. A good rule of thumb: When in doubt, leave it out.
- Send to the Right Recipient
Have you ever received an email that was meant for someone else? Have you inadvertently sent an email to the wrong person? It can be quite embarrassing, especially if the content of the email contains personal or confidential information. It is a good precaution to draft your email before including the recipient’s email address. When you are ready to send, add the email address, paying attention it is going to the right recipient. By making this a habit, you will be less likely to make a mistake.
About the Author:
Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs is an empowering professional development consultant, dynamic motivational speaker and author. Highly dedicated and results-oriented, she has the skill and passion for helping individuals become more confident and successful in business and beyond. She and her company Polished help clients focus on key adjustments that result in meaningful impact and effectiveness.