Working in a professional setting requires you to be just that – professional…in everything that you do! We often remember to dress, speak and act accordingly, but we may be forgetting about a very important form of communication – emailing.
Below you will find tips and suggested guidelines when writing an email in your professional environment. *Remember that each organization may have their own set of policies and procedures around emailing, so be sure to ask if one exists when starting in a new organization!
Tips and Guidelines
Do not be Annoying: Do not keep on sending the same message to the same person over and over again, if they don’t respond after a few days, send them an e-mail inquiring if they received your first email.
Use Threads: if you get a message from someone and you are going to respond, don’t send a new message, simply hit the reply option on your email, this keeps the original subject line with “Re:” in front of it.
Protect Addresses: If you are sending out an email to a large private list don’t use CC: (carbon copy) use BCC: (blind carbon copy) to protect the addresses of the recipients.
Keep it Private: When reading emails treat them as if they are private messages (unless you know you are allowed to share it with others).
Remember Spacing and Design: Skip a line when starting a new paragraph, avoid using tabs to signify a new paragraph, different email programs read tabs in different ways. Start a new paragraph when you are beginning a new thought. Doing so helps the reader keep things separate in their mind. It is just good workplace email etiquette. Also, avoid using HTML in your e-mails, not everyone can view it and it takes away from the professional image of the letter.
Give it a Name: Use a descriptive subject line, avoid leaving it blank or putting an irrelevant or general subject.
Mind Your Manners: Think of the basic rules you learned growing up, like saying please and thank you. Address people you don’t know as Mr., Mrs., or Dr. Only address someone by first name if they imply it’s okay to do so.
Watch your Tone: You want to come across as respectful, friendly, and approachable. You don’t want to sound curt or demanding.
Be Concise: Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible, but don’t leave out important details that will help your recipient answer your query.
Be Professional: This means, stay away from abbreviations and don’t use emoticons (those little smiley faces). Don’t use a cute or suggestive email address for business communications. Also, remember most emails are never completely private, there is always a chance of someone else besides the intended recipient reading it, so avoid writing any personal attacks which are unprofessional to begin with.
Use Correct Spelling and Proper Grammar: Use a dictionary or a spell checker — whichever works better for you. While you can write in a conversational tone (contractions are okay), pay attention to basic rules of grammar.
Proofread, proofread, and proofread: Reread your email before it goes out. Make sure the communication you are sending reflects what you want it to. Spell checker won’t catch everything
Wait to Fill in the “TO” Email Address: Career Planning Site visitor Larry Batchelor says, “I never fill in the ‘TO’ email address until I am completely through proofing my email and I am sure that it is exactly the way that I want it. This will keep you from accidentally sending an email prematurely. In the past, I have accidentally clicked on the send icon, when I really meant to click on the attachment icon.”
Do not use all CAPS in your Emails: This is perceived as yelling in the digital world. If you need to do emphasis on something, use bold or italics on the points you want to emphasize.
If you are sending an email with an attachment, make mention of it in the body of the email: Write in the email that you are sending a report or spreadsheet so that the reader knows there is more to the email than just the text. This also lets them know that if the attachment was forgotten, that they can ask for it. This is proper workplace email etiquette.
Reply to Messages as soon as possible: You do not want to have the reputation of not getting back to people. The unintended message you send people when you do not reply is that they are not important to you, or that you do not care. The basic rule about email reply speed is the following: reply to any email in less than 48 hours and ideally, in less than 24 hours (weekends do not count). This kind of email expediency will be greatly appreciated by colleagues, clients and collaborators.
Use an Auto-responder: When you’re away from the office for more than 2 days, with the exception of weekends, set an auto-responder to automatically reply to all emails, letting people know you are away and you have limited or no access to email (if this is the case). Also, leave them your phone number or the email of another colleague for emergencies.
Only add people in Cc if necessary: Just because someone added another person in the Cc field when sending you an email doesn’t mean you have to keep including that person in the discussion. Before putting a person’s email in Cc, ask yourself if that person really needs to get that email.
Do not ask Confirmations for Every Email: There is this function which requests an email receiver to send a receipt that confirms they’ve read the email. Do use it with very important email you send, to make sure it has been read, but do not use it with all your email. It’s pointless and it will quickly annoy people.
Put your Name in the Signature: This may seem obvious. However, you would be surprised how many emails I receive from addresses type “office@…” and no one has signed the email. So initially, I have no idea who I’m talking with and I get the feeling I’m talking with a machine rather than a real person.
Keep it Focused on Business: Work emails are not for office gossip or sharing your entire life story with others. It’s OK to communicate in a human, authentic way using email at work, it’s not OK to fill an email with useless details which make the relevant business information hard to find.
End Emails in a Friendly Way: Do use ending formulas such as “Best wishes” or “Have a great day”. Even if you use the same formula with everyone and it’s more of a reflex, it will still help. People like it when an email ends in a warm and positive way, wishing them things like the ones above.
Begin each email with a greeting: No matter how pressed for time you are, a simple greeting such as “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Dear X” is good etiquette. Otherwise, if you launch into your email without a greeting or introduction you run the risk of seeming impolite or impatient.
Work Email is Owned by your Company: Remember that your work email, both the address and all correspondence, is the property of the company you work for. Anything you’ve ever sent or received–even if you’ve deleted it–could potentially be retrieved from the system by a database administrator at any time.
Get the Name Right: Email recipients can get angry if the body of your email has the wrong spelling of their name or, even worse, if you address the person as “Mr.” when it should really be “Ms.” Always double-check spellings and titles before sending your email. If you are not sure whether the recipient is male or female, either use the person’s first name or the full name.
Calling After Email: It might be tempting to call up the person you just emailed, but desist. It can be annoying for the recipient. Give the person some hours or even a day to think and respond, no matter how eager you may be for the reply. If it’s urgent, mention that in the subject. If anything – if it is an important matter – call the person first alerting them to the email.
Don’t send an email when emotional or angry. Sit on it for 24 hours.
The ideal font is Arial, size 12.