Email is a great way of communicating clearly and concisely with colleagues and clients, without having to leave your desk. With email now so ingrained in office life, it’s easy to get complacent with your language, which can give a bad impression to colleagues, customers or clients. Check our advice below to make sure you have excellent email etiquette and avoid awkward faux pas.
1. Write a Clear subject Line
The subject line of your email is the first thing your recipient will see, so it needs to grab their attention and succinctly explain the reason for your message. If you are writing to someone new, perhaps a potential client, your subject line is particularly important as it may be the deciding factor between them opening your email and ignoring it.
Lead with important words that highlight your subject and avoid any filler or questions in the subject of an email. The sentence should be short, specific and leave no room for misunderstanding on the part of your recipient.
2. Use an Appropriate Greeting
Addressing someone in an email is like addressing someone in a letter – there are different words and phrases to use depending on your relationship with the recipient. By and large, emails are less formal than letter writing, and the following tips will give you an idea of how to adapt your greeting for different recipients.
If you are contacting someone new, and you have their name, begin your email ‘Dear [name]’. While this may seem formal, it is best to start a correspondence with this polite address – you can always shift to a more causal tone as the conversation develops. When writing someone’s name for the first time, consider using their title and last name, which again is a sign of politeness and respect. For women, avoid assuming their martial status by using Ms instead of Miss or Mrs.
If you know the person you are emailing, a more informal greeting is better. This can be something along the lines of ‘Hi [name]’, a more conversational tone.
From time to time you may have to email someone whose name you do not know. In these cases, try and find the right balance between formal and informal. Phrases such as ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To whom it may concern’ can come across as cold or standoffish, whereas just saying ‘Hi’ can seem a little forward or rude. ‘Hello’ is a nice middle ground between these two options, it is still polite and works well without a name following it.
3. Be Concise
One of the great things about email is that is allows you to be more direct with colleagues and clients, seriously cutting down on time spent communicating, making you and your colleagues more productive.
Unlike a phone call or face-to-face conversation, you do not need to make small talk in an email. Get to the point and jump into the topic of your email in the first line.
Stick to the point throughout your email and clearly highlight any questions, requests or calls to action.
4. Use Professional Language
It is important to remember that email is not an instant messenger service. Using the type of slang and abbreviations that you might do with colleagues on IMs should be avoided. Stick to professional language and write words out in full unless you are using a conjunction or acronym.
Adjust your email tone based on who is receiving the message. There should be a notable difference between messages to your colleagues and your clients, for example.
1. Sign off Properly
Indicate when your email is drawing to a close with an appropriate sign off. Using just your name might be okay in an email chain to your colleagues, but usually it is better to end with a short phrase, to avoid seeming as though you are unsatisfied with something.
As with greetings, there are a range of sign-off messages you can use, and there are some that are more appropriate for certain situations than others. If you are ending a formal message, to a manager or new client for example, stick to more formal phrases such as ‘best regards’, ‘sincerely’ and ‘thank you’.
If the email is to someone you know quite well, you can employ an informal sign-off along the line of ‘best wishes’ or ‘thanks’.
Communication mishaps in the office are common and can often be avoided by proof reading. Take a few seconds after writing your email to check it makes sense, your points are clear and your subject line conveys these.
Also check that the email is being sent to the correct email address. Auto-complete can be a help but also a hindrance if it suggests the wrong email automatically. It is easy to miss a wrong address so check your recipients are correct just before sending to make sure your message gets to the right person.
By following these steps you should be able to get your emails in shape, and utilise a professional yet friendly tone in your communications. If you have any great email tips, let us know on Twitter @ Viking_Chat.