In this tech-savvy world that millennials know oh so well, you would think that email communication would be an easy thing for us to master. Unfortunately, there are several pitfalls that can occur when sending a professional email. Sometimes it can be a natural habit for us to open our inbox in the morning and immediately start replying away to each email. However, before you press “send,” remember this list of do’s and don’ts on email etiquette.
Use an Appropriate Subject
The subject of an email is the first thing someone sees in their inbox, so make sure your subject is clear, direct, and accurate. If you are emailing time sensitive information, indicate the urgency in your subject line. If you need approval or more information before moving forward on a project, put “action required” in the subject so that the receiver knows you are waiting their response. Having a clear subject line helps the email stand out in a cluttered inbox.
Keep it Short
Emails are meant for quick exchanges, not a long, drawn out message. Try to limit your emails to one subject. It keeps the message of the email clear and focused. When you start adding multiple topics to your email, you risk losing your reader’s attention. When you do have multiple subjects to discuss, it’s probably best to pick up the phone or schedule a face-to-face meeting.
Thanks to texting, I think it’s a habit to read an email, press reply, type a message, and press send. Then two minutes later, you realize you misspelled someone’s name, structured a sentence poorly, didn’t complete a thought, etc. Avoid this pitfall by remembering to proofread your email. Spell check is a great life saver, but it can’t catch everything. Look over your emails before you send it to keep your credibility intact.
Never Send an Angry Email
If you find yourself drafting an email during a heated situation, don’t click send! Draft your email and then walk away. Edit your draft after you’ve had time to cool off. Even though email doesn’t show nonverbal cues like body language in face-to-face communication, email does convey tone. If you are still unsure about how your email will be received, ask a peer to look over it. Remember, while you might be sharing thoughts or opinions in the moment to one person, you don’t know whose inbox that email could end up in later (see below).
Write for the Public
Just because an email exchange can start out private, they very quickly can end up public. Once you send the email, you no longer have control over where that email gets forwarded. For this reason, write your emails with the understanding that an email could always turn public at some point. You don’t want to get caught saying something that can later land you in an awkward situation or actually get you in trouble with your manager. (So yeah, sending a venting email about your project deadline, your boss, or the person that parked in your parking spot…probably not a good idea.)
Know Your Audience When Using Technical Jargon
Be cautious when sending an email with a bunch of jargon. If you are emailing a colleague, it could be totally appropriate to use technical jargon because they are common terms in your world. For example, as an accountant, it is normal for me to send and receive emails within the office with abbreviations like COGS and 2QES, etc. If I needed to email a third-party, I’m more likely to type out the full terms rather than use the shorthand version. That way, there is less of a chance for misunderstanding.
Beware of “Reply All”
Generally speaking, think twice before using the “reply all” feature in your email. There are definitely times when “reply all” is necessary, but before you send an email to multiple people, consider all of the people listed need to know the information you are sending. If only one person needs to read the response, there is no reason to clutter other people’s inboxes.
Keep these tips in mind when responding to your emails today, and you will protect yourself from a face palm moment later on!
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The views and opinions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s)’ and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of ATKG, LLP, its owners, employees, or affiliates.