Email is a fantastic tool that nearly every business relies on for communication. And while there’s an ever-growing list of social media and communication avenues, email remains one of the top forms of communication for most professions. To make sure you’re getting the most out of the medium, here are 16 tips to help you before you hit send.
- Include a clear subject line. Use concise but descriptive subject lines. For example, “Meeting tomorrow” might be accurate, but it’s too vague. A better subject line would be “Marketing meeting with ABC Brands tomorrow at 10 a.m.”
- Include a signature block. If your company provides signature block information, use it. These blocks are helpful to people inside and outside your business that may receive your emails. A good signature block should state your name, title, company name, your work email and phone number.
- Beware of “reply all.” We’ve all been on the receiving end of a group email that will not end, especially when the last six replies have nothing to do with you. Unless everyone that’s included in the email needs to see your reply opt out of using the “reply all” button.
- Use bcc and cc properly. CC, carbon copy, is an easy way to send copies of your email to more individuals. BCC is essentially the same thing, but those receiving your email will not see a list of those who have been blind carbon copied. The “to” field of your email should be reserved for the main recipients. Anyone with an interest in the email can be put in the CC field. You should use BCC when you don’t want your recipient to know that you have copied another person’s email. For example, if you are having a problem with a coworker you can email them and BCC your supervisor or HR department so they receive a copy of your email without your primary recipient knowing. Another reason to use BCC is if you are sending an email to a large volume of contacts and you want to maintain their privacy.
- Reply to all your emails. Even if some of your emails do not require a long response, it’s good to at least acknowledge receipt of the information. A quick, “I understand. Thanks for letting me know,” lets the sender know that there’s not been a lapse in communication. You should also reply back to emails that were sent to you in error to let the sender know of their mistake so they can correct it.
- Keep your fonts basic. It’s fine to send emails to your friends in hot pink comic sans, but keep your business correspondence classic and easy to read. A 10- or 12-point black font in Arial or Times New Roman is very easy on the eyes.
- Personalize your greeting. Whether your email is a detailed proposal or you’re just touching base about a client lunch, greet your recipient accordingly. Address them how you would in normal conversation, either by their first name or in a more formal manner.
- Keep it short, but not too short. Don’t waste time getting to the point of your email. Your time and your recipient’s time is valuable. Don’t write a three paragraph response when a couple of sentences will do.
On the flip side of that coin is the dreaded one-word response. Give your recipient the closure they need. If a coworker has sent you a detailed email acknowledge it in kind.
- Use exclamation points sparingly. Exclamation points have a very specific use: to convey excitement. If you feel it’s necessary to use one, only use one. Using multiple exclamation points throughout your email or at the end of a sentence can come across as immature or angry.
- Beware the limitations of email. Email is a great way to communicate, but misunderstandings can happen. Humor, exaggeration and sarcasm sometimes do not translate well via email. Your best bet is to be straightforward and to tailor your message to how well you know the person. If you have not had many interactions with the person, be cordial but succinct. If you are emailing someone who is notoriously short get to your point quickly.
- Email is not texting. If you’re used to using shorthand in your text messages it may be a hard habit to break, but don’t abbreviate in your emails. While it can be an informal medium, work emails should alway be more formal than your text messages. “Thank you for your email” will always be better received in a business setting than “thx 🙂 “
- Respect the hierarchy. Your messages should be tailored to the recipient. You would not use the same language conversing with your coworker as you would the president of your company. The higher up the corporate ladder you are contacting the more formal and concise your emails should be. Executives are likely to receive more emails a day than others in the company. Value their time by being professional and short. If they like what you are proposing or wish to discuss something further, they will reach out.
- Avoid emotional emailing. If you just got out of a meeting that left you frustrated or upset, take a walk before you get behind your keyboard. You may be tempted to let your boss know all 500 ways you hate the new promotional campaign, but your criticisms will be better received if you write with a level head. Taking a 5 to 10 minute breather can allow you to better collect your thoughts before you send something you can’t take back.
- Don’t deliver bad news via email. Fewer things can be more hurtful and impersonal than receiving bad news via email. If you need to let someone know they’re being demoted, transferred, laid off, or that a fellow coworker has died, do that in person. People will generally have a lot of questions in these situations and it will be less stressful for all parties involved if they can have them answered immediately and in person.
- Nothing you say is confidential. You may only be sending your email to a coworker, but you can’t control to whom they forward its contents. Don’t write something you wouldn’t want others to see. And don’t write something you would never have the courage to say to someone’s face. Some things are better kept to yourself.
- Proofread. We’ve all sent an email only to realize a moment later that we forgot to attach a document or mention the time of a meeting. Taking a minute or two to re-read your email before you hit “send” can save you a lot of grief and embarrassment.