Workplaces have become more casual than ever. Thanks to social media, elements like emojis, memes and netspeak (acronyms, abbreviations, etc.) have become part of our daily communication. It’s inevitable that these unconventional ways of communicating could seep into the way we engage with our colleagues at the office. In the same way that languages constantly evolve around linguistic etiquette, a solid email (or e-mail, depending on your preference) etiquette can help iron out office communication woes and achieve a standard of professionalism in the workplace.
We’ve put together a list of best practices for email etiquette that will help you to look your best when sending emails.
What is email etiquette? And why is it important?
Email etiquette refers to the principles that guide our behavior when sending and receiving emails. This code of conduct includes appropriate language, spelling, grammar, and manners guidelines. The proper etiquette depends on whom you are emailing. However, in the workplace, staying on the formal side of these conventions is always safer.
Adhering to email etiquette will help establish professionalism, build stronger relationships in the workplace and represent your employer well. It will also make communication more efficient and prevent you, or the business, from getting into trouble. Familiarizing yourself with professional email etiquette will help you to communicate in a respectful manner with others, especially when you are engaging with colleagues or potential clients.
Without further delay, here are some quick tips to consider before hitting that send button.
Know why you’re writing
This tip may sound obvious, but it’s not unusual to receive a message without a clear goal or to get confused about why we were added to a thread. Be clear about what you want to achieve with the message you’re sending, who needs to receive it, and if the email is the best format to convey the message. Your goal should be to write about only one subject per email. But if you need to condense more information, use bullet points to make the message clear, concise, and scannable.
Maintain a professional tone
Business emails should have a professional tone throughout. Effective communication is the ability to get information across quickly and efficiently. The only way to accomplish that is by using a professional tone. While it can still be conversational, a professional tone will help you to remain on point. Be concise, and clear, and use appropriate language.
Make sure your subject line is clear
Everyone gets buried in their inboxes at some point. A clear subject line can have a significant impact on whether an email gets opened or not. Subject lines must be brief and specific. They should clarify what the email is about before even being opened. Your job is to tell the recipient what you need to say using keywords. Consider using words like proposal, help, or feedback. Subject lines that provide utility are more likely to get read, so keep it practical. Whatever you do, never send an email without a subject line. It’s a clear violation of proper email etiquette.
Be concise and keep it simple
When writing emails, make them as brief as possible, while giving context and explaining the message. If the receiver is unsure what you meant, you have missed the mark. Be straight, to the point, and try to respect the recipient’s time.
Pay attention to the format and the structure
Fonts and colors should be standard, so the receiver’s attention doesn’t get distracted from the message. Also, be sure to use the right structure. If an email is the best way to communicate your message or request, use its structure to make it easy for recipients to understand your message. Use quick greetings and double-check your mail signature before hitting send.
Take extra care with attachments
Have you sent an email saying there’s an attached file only to find you hadn’t uploaded it before sending it? We’ve all done it. Probably multiple times. When you’ve realized your mistake, send a quick follow-up mail to forward the file. Also, make sure the file you attach is the correct file. There is no recovery from the consequences of sending something inappropriate, illicit, or personal to colleagues or clients. Always double-check before sending a file.
Be polite and respectful
Politeness and respect are the rules of any good relationship, be it in writing or in person. So it’s always good to remember the importance of treating coworkers, customers, and clients how you’d like to be treated. Be polite and respectful in every interaction, even when you’re having a bad day.
One of the worst mistakes to make regarding email etiquette in the workplace (and outside the office) is to be too impersonal. Always mention the recipient’s name and pay attention not to get it wrong. Without the benefit of body language, the recipient will not have our facial or body expressions to guide them through our communication, so refrain from using insensitive humor and do your best to come across positively.
Emotionally proofread your messages
People often tend to perceive written messages as aggressive or passive-aggressive. That is why we should be careful with our choice of words, and never leave matters open to interpretation. Make every effort not to make people nervous when receiving a message from you by using the right punctuation and explaining the context.
Be careful when sharing sensitive information
Ideally, you shouldn’t share sensitive or confidential information via email because there are several ways in which someone could disclose the message without your consent. For example, you could face security issues or send the information to the wrong address by mistake.
If you must do so, be extra careful when reviewing the email recipients, and follow security best practices regarding email communication. As with the attachments, make sure there is nothing overly personal included in the communication that could stir up mixed feelings.
Never finish without the next steps
The first thing you need to do before sending an email is to know the reason behind the message. This will help you to close the communication with possible next steps for the recipient. Avoid open-ended emails. Explain what activity is required after reading the message and clarify what you expect to achieve with the communication.
If you receive an open-ended email, follow up to understand the next steps, as well as who will be responsible for executing those steps. This way, you direct the conversation to keep all receivers and even the sender on the same page, avoiding any confusion.
Besides effective communication, good email etiquette will maintain a professional image that will reflect positively on an individual or the company they work for. It helps to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications. This could lead to frustration and wasted time, both of which can be detrimental to any organization.
Boldr is an ethical outsourcing company, as well as a people-first B-Corp on a mission to do good. While this sounds like a superhero tagline, it has supplemented a unique company culture where we respect our clients and our fellow team members, which is evidenced by our belief in following email etiquette. If you wish to know more about our services and how we are connecting communities around the world, reach out to us here.