It’s the 20's and I’m still seeing emails that look more like notes passed between friends in Middle School rather than professional correspondence. Now, I’m not talking about quick, little emails to your significant other but rather serious correspondence between businesses. Is it because of all the texting that we're doing these days? Or is it because our bad habits have transferred over from our social media mindset? Whatever it is, I'm not a big fan.
I believe that when it comes to business email, there really is only one way to write – professionally. As a consultant, there’s nothing more important than how our clients see us - ie: client perceptions. And since email is probably THE key communication medium used in today’s business world, it’s a wonder more isn’t made of this lack of “email etiquette”.
Although it's easy to go on auto-pilot when you’re in your Inbox composing new emails, you really should be thinking about how to leverage this tool called email. You really can significantly improve your productivity, your staff’s productivity, and the success of your communications if you simply pay attention to how your emails are going out BEFORE you hit send.
Here are 10 of (what I believe to be) the most important guidelines that will help you send more professional emails…
- Always have a specific subject line. A good subject line helps your recipient to prioritize their messages and find them later. It also helps to communicate that your email isn't spam. If your message is especially important, consider starting your subject with something like "Important:" or "Critical:" (and then the rest of your subject).
- Other than a project or meeting recap, keep your message as brief as possible. It shows respect for your reader, and it has a better chance of being read and responded to.
- State right up front why you're writing, within the first two lines of the message.
- Limit your email to one topic only. When you cover multiple topics in a single message, you risk burying important information.
- Use bullet points wherever possible. Don’t bury valuable information deep within paragraphs.
- Be courteous. It doesn't take long to type "please" and "thank you". You'll get better results.
- If you’re asking someone to do something, asking a question, or expect a response back – don't bury it in the body of the email. Put it at the end. Make sure it’s clear – this is what you're asking them to do! My personal favorite to add clarity is, of course, "Let me know..." I don't think it can be any clearer than this that I'm expecting a response.
- Always end your email with your signature or your name. You’d never send a written note without it, why end an email without any sort of ending?
- Always respond to an email – even with a simple “ok”. You’d never walk away from a conversation not saying anything. Don’t let an email “conversation” end any differently.
- ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS proofread your email before sending it.
- Make sure it's grammatically correct. Make sure you're using the correct "you're" or "your". Make sure you're using the correct "their", "they're", or "there". Make sure you're using the correct "to" or "too".
- Pretend you’re the recipient. Read it as though you have no idea what you’re writing about. You’ll often be surprised at what critical pieces of information you left out because you know what you’re writing about.
- If it's anywhere important, consider saving it and then opening it up 10 seconds later to allow you to read it with a different perspective in mind.
As a bonus, here's one more…
- If you're responding to an existing email, but the topic has changed - make sure the subject has changed to reflect this. There's nothing worse than having a mismatch between the topic that's in the email and the subject from an old email thread.
As another bonus, here are couple of things to consider NOT doing…
- Don't introduce a new topic in the middle of an email thread. If you're changing the subject, create a new message with a different subject line.
- Don't send an email when a phone call would be more appropriate. Don't engage in rounds of email when talking to the person will resolve the issue.
- No different from voicemail, don't deliver bad news via email. If you need the ability to manage the response, don't send the news via email.
- Don't ever write anything private, confidential or potentially incriminating. Remember that email isn't private. Be discreet about the content. It doesn't seem to matter how many times people hear this advice; there's always someone in the news learning the hard way by having their emails subpoenaed or plastered all over the front page of the newspaper. Don't ever put anything in an email that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with the entire world.
So there you have it. 10, no 11, helpful hints to improve your emails. I guarantee that if you follow these guidelines your emails will be received in a whole different light!
What do you think? Has this been helpful? What do you do to ensure your emails are as effective as possible? Let me know in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.