We send and receive emails everyday. In our world today, email is an essential communication tool that is used almost on a daily basis, and especially for business transactions. Our smart phones, too, allow us to send and receive messages from anywhere. It’s simply convenient, and you aren’t afraid that you might be interrupting someone by texting or calling them on the phone. But this convenience often times lead people to make embarrassing mistakes that may be harmful in a professional interaction. For example, you could easily miss a spelling error while typing out an email on your phone or come off as too casual or unprofessional in tone or content. These mistakes can have serious professional consequences. Here is a look at the essential rules you should know.
1. Include a clear, direct subject line: Subject line is the first thing your recipient will see. In fact, people often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line. Subject line is the summarized and simplified text of what your message is all about. For example, ‘Outcome of Today’s Meeting’, Tips for the New Month’. It entirely depends on the message you want to pass across. You would not want to send a watery email that ends up being deleted before reading it. Choose the subject line that let readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues.
2. Use a professional email address: If you work for a company, you should use your company email address. But if you use a personal email account–whether you are self-employed or just like using it occasionally for work-related correspondences —you should be careful when choosing that address. You should always have an email address that conveys your name so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. Never use email addresses that makes you look childish. For instance, babyboy@… sexygirl@… These are not appropriate professional emails.
3. Think twice before hitting ‘reply all: Sometimes, people get bored with email threads and conversations, especially if they are not meant for them, or if the normal discussion is over. No one wants to read emails from 10, 15, 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.
4. Include a signature block: Provide your reader with some extra information about you. Generally, this would state your full name, title, the company name, and your contact information, including a phone number. You also can add a little publicity for yourself, but don’t go overboard with any sayings or artwork. Advisable you use the same font, type size, and color as the rest of the email.
5. Use professional salutations: Don’t use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, “Hey you guys,” “Yo,” or “Hi folks.” The relaxed nature of our writings should not affect the salutation in an email. “Hey” is a very informal salutation and generally it should not be used in the workplace. And ”Yo” is not okay either. Use Hi or Hello instead.
Also advisable that you don’t shorten someone’s name unless the person prefers to be addressed by that name. For instance; ‘Hi Chukwuemeka’ to ‘Hi Emeka’ or “Hi Michael,” to”Hi Mike.”
6. Use exclamation points sparingly: If you choose to use an exclamation point, use only one to convey excitement. People sometimes get carried away and put a number of exclamation points at the end of their sentences. The result can appear too emotional or immature. Exclamation points should be used sparingly in writing.
7. Be careful with humor: Humor can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions. In a professional exchange, it’s better to leave humor out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Also, something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else.
8. Know that people from different cultures speak and write differently.Miscommunication can easily occur because of cultural differences, especially in the writing form when we can’t see one another’s body language. Tailor your message to the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them.
A good rule to keep in mind, is that high-context cultures (Japanese, Arab, or Chinese) want to get to know you before doing business with you. Therefore, it may be common for business associates from these countries to be more personal in their writings. On the other hand, people from low-context cultures (German, American, or Scandinavian) prefer to get to the point very quickly.
9. Reply to your emails–even if the email wasn’t intended for you: It’s difficult to reply to every email message ever sent to you, but you should try to. This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. A reply isn’t necessary but serves as good email etiquette, especially if this person works in the same company or industry as you.
10. Proofread every message: Your mistakes won’t go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. And, depending upon the recipient, you may be judged for making them. Do not rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.
11. Add the email address last: You don’t want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proof-reading the message. Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.
12. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient: To pay careful attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line. “It’s easy to select the wrong name, which can be embarrassing to you and to the person who receives the email by mistake.
13. Keep your fonts classic: Purple Comic Sans has a time and a place (maybe?), but for business correspondence, keep your fonts, colors, and sizes classic.
The cardinal rule: Your emails should be easy for other people to read.
Generally, it is best to use 10- or 12- point type and an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. As for color, black is the safest choice.
14. Keep tabs on your tone: Just as jokes get lost in translation, tone is easy to misconstrue without the context you’d get from vocal cues and facial expressions. Accordingly, it’s easy to come off as more abrupt that you might have intended –you meant “straightforward,” they read “angry and curt.” To avoid misunderstandings, read your message out loud before hitting send. If it sounds harsh to you, it will sound harsh to the reader.
For best results, avoid using unequivocally negative words (“failure,” “wrong,” or “neglected”), and always say “please” and “thank you.”
15. Nothing is confidential–so write accordingly: Always remember that: Every electronic message leaves a trail. A basic guideline is to assume that others will see what you write, so don’t write anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see. A more liberal interpretation: Don’t write anything that would be ruinous to you or hurtful to others. After all, email is dangerously easy to forward, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.