As a result of the brief and rapid nature of texting and Twitter, emails have become shorter and more informal, which is not a good thing. In a personal context, it’s OK, but in a professional setting you need to proceed with caution. Generally speaking, emails should be treated as formal notes unless you are writing to a close professional contact.
Emails are misinterpreted all the time, which is why you need to write and edit them carefully. When you write, you lose facial expressions and intonation in speech. Therefore, what you write can be grossly misconstrued and cause undue harm to your professional reputation and relationships. Follow these guidelines to help you craft effective emails.
[See: 12 Steps to Email Rehabilitation.]
Include a proper salutation. Many people no longer address emails to a recipient by name. Either a salutation is completely left off, or more commonly, people write “Hi,” or “Hello,” without a name after it. Unless you’re writing to nameless help desk support at Apple, please use the person’s name! How do you feel when you get emails without your name? It starts an email off on the wrong foot. Also, consider who you are writing to and address it appropriately. For a first-time email, you want to use “Dear Ms. or Mr. Last Name.” You can switch to a first name later if the person responds and signs it as such.
Scratch informality. There is a major difference between texts and emails. Text messages are meant to convey a quick message. Emails contain more information and, as a result, should be more thoughtful and written in complete sentences rather than fragments. Don’t approach your email like a text message. Write proper sentences and check your grammar and spelling before hitting the send button. People are often very turned off by informal emails because it looks like a lack of effort on your part. That said, there are some emails you likely want to write from your computer rather than your phone. So when you receive an email, think before you automatically respond. Does this have to be taken care of right this minute? If so, make sure you write a thoughtful response. Sometimes a quick “thank you” to acknowledge a message is enough, but in other cases, take your time.
Turn your demand into a request. When you read your own emails or those written by others, you may begin to notice that a lot of people are overly demanding in them. This is because it’s not face to face and people take more liberty because the message is in writing. For example, we often write things like, “I need five copies of the report on my desk by Monday,” or “What I need is a summary of the conference you attended.” How can you say these things in a smarter way? Turn it into a request and you’ll not only get a better response, but people will tend to think positively of you, which goes a long way toward helping your career. Relationships and positive impressions are the top priority to keep intact throughout your career. Write, “Can you kindly provide me with five copies of the report by Monday?” or “Please send me a summary of the conference you attended.” You’ve used essentially the same number of words and said the same thing, but in a much nicer way.
Reiterate your request. At the end of any email, you should restate your request. If you’re asking for a phone call or meeting, suggest one or two convenient times and ask if that works with the person’s schedule. Is there a date you need something by? Write: “Kindly send me your input by Thursday, June 30.” Remember: it should be in the form of a request, not a demand. When you follow up, the same rules apply. Address your email to the person by name and use full sentences. Formulate your need into a request rather than a demand by altering your language.
Though the world has become more informal due to rapid technological changes, email etiquette is not dead. Just like any social media post you put out there for consumption, your emails carry a lot of weight. They can easily be misinterpreted and even forwarded to others without your consent. Re-read what you’ve written and edit, which will go a long way in ensuring you maintain professional respect and positive relations with your co-workers. This will help you for years to come in ways you probably don’t yet realize.
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