It’s 2017 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 spouse. I’m talking about B2B correspondence between fairly senior staff.
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 perceptions. And since email is one of the key communication mediums 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 careful attention to how you write your emails. Here are a few of what I believe to be some of the most important guidelines to keep in mind…
- Always, always, always have a specific subject line. A good subject line helps your recipient to prioritize their messages and find them later. If your message is especially important, consider starting your subject with something like "Important:" (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 you have 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 – put this at the end of the email. Don’t bury it in the body. Make sure it’s clear – this is what you want them to do!
- 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 chain – 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.
- Before you press “send”, ALWAYS re-read your email and improve it. 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.
Some 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.
- 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. Some 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 info been helpful? Let us know in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.