In most business communication, email is the primary avenue to relay a message. Companies rely on this medium to manage projects, get updates, and stay on the same page. Although email is commonplace in the workplace, you should still be mindful of how you are using it. From tone to punctuation to content – it’s crucial to adhere to the best practices when on the clock. Unfortunately, one inappropriate or poorly written email can derail your success, despite your best intentions. Here are tips on email etiquette that will improve your professional correspondence.
Stay True to your Audience
Before drafting an email or hitting ‘send,’ it’s essential to consider your audience. Are you writing to a VP or upper management or a colleague that you have known for years? This will determine the tone of your message and help you decide whether to be strictly professional versus informal. Salutations are an essential factor in how your email will be interpreted. When speaking to someone you do not know or a higher-ranking teammate, introductions such as ‘hello’ or ‘good morning/afternoon’ are safe bets. If you are familiar with the person, ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ will suffice. Closing statements are just as important – make sure to say ‘thank you’, ‘kindly’, ‘best,’ or any other conclusion. Omitting an exit statement with a friend at work is usually okay if that is your typical style of communication with that person.
Be Mindful of Punctuation
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are significant when sending emails. Missing a comma or other symbol can change the meaning of the entire message and result in miscommunication. Also, consider the way that you are using exclamation points and question marks. Including several in a row can read as yelling or that you are angry; multiple question marks in place of one can be interpreted as frustration or rudeness. Poor spelling and grammatical errors usually reflect poorly on the sender and communicate that you are rushing or lacking focus on the job. Pay attention to the structure of the message, and always proofread before hitting send. When unsure, use a grammar check program or have a colleague read it over for legibility.
Most workdays can be hectic, where several pressing tasks pull you in many directions. When you have various responsibilities on your plate, addressing the ever-piling email inbox might be the last of your priorities. Putting that form of correspondence on the backburner for a day might be necessary – but past that, lack of response can be detrimental. Slow replies can cause frustration throughout the company and also leave you out of the loop. A good practice to adopt is setting a designated time to answer emails if you are routinely overloaded with incoming messages. Also, get into the habit of answering quick or easy questions within minutes of receiving them rather than procrastinating. This will keep communication flowing and establish a reputation of being proactive and engaged.
Should I Send This?
Even though there are delete buttons on the keyboard, no message that you send is ever truly gone. Keep this in mind when sending emails – do not relay anything that you would not want the world to see. Depending on the size of the company, it can be easy to accidentally send an email to someone with a similar name as your intended recipient. Make sure that what you are saying is professional, just in case. When communicating, people interpret messages differently, and when not speaking face-to-face, the tone can be misconstrued. Consider this before using sarcasm or other forms of humor that may not read well with a colleague. Inside jokes and witty banter between friends at work should stay off of your email and, instead, live in text messages or conversations after hours.
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