Email is now the number one form of communication. And no wonder! It’s instant, easy, and leaves a record of what has been said. But those very advantages make email susceptible to abuse and careless mistakes.Take a few moments to think and check before you hit ‘send’:
1. Start with a polite greeting
Whether you use a formal ‘Dear Mr Smith’ or are familiar enough to use ‘Hi Bob’, it’s polite to start with something. When in doubt, be more formal. Once you have sussed out the corporate culture and read a few emails from colleagues, you will know whether you can use a more slightly more relaxed tone.
2. Don’t automatically ‘cc’ the world!
It can be maddening to be copied in on every note that goes between colleagues, so don’t automatically ‘cc’ everyone. If, at the end of a discussion, the outcome is forwarded to several people, at least they just have the one message to deal with, instead of every step of the conversation arriving in their inbox every ten minutes.
3. Use the subject heading wisely.
This should make it easy for the recipient to understand what the message is about, when they are quickly scanning through their crammed full inbox. ‘Re: Yesterday’s Meeting’ is not helpful. ‘Re: Tuesday’s Meeting About Car Sharing’ is.
4. Keep friendly conversations out of the company inbox.
It may seem fine to occasionally type “TGIF, have a good weekend!”, or “I hope your hubby’s leg has healed up okay!” to a colleague, but be careful. Any email may be forwarded or attached. If the initial conversation was about a project idea, a thread titled “Summer Beach Exhib Booth” might be innocently sent on to a colleague for another opinion or advice. You don’t want them reading all the way down to where you are giggling about whether the lifeguards might be as hot and naughty as last year! Remember that emails using a company address are company property and may be automatically saved on a server, even if you delete them.
5. Keep it short
State the facts, try to use short sentences and don’t ramble. Your reader has many other emails to deal with and will not appreciate your taking up more of her time than necessary. When you proofread your message, you may find you can delete a few lines altogether.
Spell check doesn’t catch all errors, so a read-through is really vital. Words like your and you’re, and their and there, are easily mixed up. And apostrophes don’t pluralise! If you’re not sure of something, check. Bad spelling and grammar looks very unprofessional.
7. Sign off graciously
Say Goodbye. Whether you use ‘Yours Sincerely’, ‘Kind Regards’ or simply ‘Best’, do sign off graciously. Good manners go a long way, and an email that ends abruptly may be confusing, if the reader thinks it has been half-written or sent in error.
And finally, is email really necessary? Our colleagues and potential customers have dozens, if not hundreds, of emails in their inboxes, and so do we. Might a quick telephone call be better? Or if you work in an office with others, popping into the next door office to check something or ask a question can be better than sending yet another email, and it gives us a moment to stretch our legs.
Often, your email is the crucial first impression people get of you. You wouldn’t meet a client or colleague in your pyjamas, so apply the same effort and polish to all of your emails. It really makes a difference.
What tips would you add?