Day 21 – Email Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of Emailing
We each receive hundreds of emails a week. It has become the communication method of choice for many business professionals. It is easy to sit down and write an email and another one and another one. Sometimes it simply is more efficient than picking up the telephone.
However, just as face-to-face first impressions last, so too do email impressions. You can’t take back an email sent in haste or you can’t laugh off the joke that insulted someone (even though that wasn’t your intention).
Email communication can be difficult to get right. As it is a communication method, it has all the attributes necessary for good communication – sender encodes the message and the receiver decodes message – but as the writer isn’t in front of the reader, the message can often get decoded incorrectly.
Response and feedback to a message can get ‘infected’ by noise. This noise might be an internal response by the receiver, a message being received at the wrong time or sheer volume of email traffic and demands on the receiver.
As such, you must step into the shoes of your reader (as much as possible) when writing your message.
Reasons for Email Etiquette
Some organisations have a formal email policy, others operate on an informal basis. Some employees or business owners set their own standards when setting emails. Whatever you do, try to have your own email etiquette based on the following values:
Above all, your emails should represent you in a positive and professional light. You wouldn’t wear a dirty, creased suit to work so you shouldn’t send an email that portrays a less-than perfect image of yourself.
Be as clear as you can with your emails. Say what you need to say and sign off.
You are neither everyone’s best friend nor are you their boss. Be approachable in your emails; don’t be over-friendly and don’t be too cold. Find yourself a happy medium as emails do help to build and nurture relationships.
Do’s and Don’t of Emailing
Do’s of Emailing
- Do think carefully about what you want to write
Write your emails when you are calm or in a neutral mood.
- Do use sub-headings, bulleted or numbering lists to break up text
If you need to write a long email, then break up the text into readable chunks.
- Do edit your emails
As I mentioned earlier in the series, time is a great healer. It allows you time to re-read your email and change a phrase or delete an emotionally charged rant on an email.
- Do use a corporate email policy
If there is a policy in your organisation, find it and use it. If there isn’t one, set about writing your own one. Like this one, list out a few do’s and don’ts so that all corporate emails follow a similar pattern.
- Do find out how your reader likes his emails
If your reader prefers small emails, write small, to-the-point emails. If he likes a bit of chit-chat, ask after the family. If she prefers an informal tone, talk to her as if she is a friend.
- Do use a script or template for frequently asked questions
If you constantly find yourself replying to the same or similar questions, craft a response and use it.
- Do ‘copy and paste’ with judgement
There is nothing worse than receiving a mail with different styles or tones. Copy and paste is useful but work it into your email message.
Don’ts of Emailing
- Don’t hit the ‘send’ button without reading or proofing your written email
You can’t take an email back so double check your email. Ensure there is no hidden agenda or insult.
- Don’t over-use emotion icons
🙂 😉 are all very well and good to help convey a message. But if you’re emails are consistently filled with these icons, your reader will get annoyed. It will show that you can’t express yourself using the written word.
- Don’t digress
Make a point in your email and stick to it. Don’t digress on another point or write long-winded text where the reader can’t find your point.
- Don’t write IN CAPITALS
Capitals infer screaming. It’s not professional and can appear arrogant and insulting. If you want to highlight a point, use underline, italics, bold, colour or centre alignment.
- Don’t use incorrect words
Urgent, important, reply today are words that you see regularly in emails. Many times, they are used to engender a response. But ask yourself how urgent or important is your email to your sender before using the words.
- Don’t be critical
If you get an email with poor spelling, over-use of emoticons, punctuation marks or abbreviations, don’t criticise in an email. Pick up the phone. Criticising over email is not recommended.
Day 21 – Homework
Find out if your organisation has an email policy.
If not, write a five point email policy based on the above information, taking into account your organisational culture