With everyone facing demands of an ever-packed to-do list, email can really be a lifesaver. But with that said, it also becomes easy for us to use a busy schedule to rationalize some less-than-stellar etiquette in email communication. Making a positive impression is crucial, regardless of the means of communication used or who the audience is. Here are a few things to think about in terms of your email skills:
Open a message only when you intend to respond
This can be a tough one to hold yourself to, but it really helps to keep you on task with your emails and cuts down on your chances of having an email fall through the cracks, which is something that’s probably happened to us all at least once! Even if your response is simply to say that you don’t have the answer yet but will research and respond later, that’s quite all right. However, give yourself a deadline in the email response (so you actually follow all the way through!) and flag the email with a reminder so you won’t forget about it. Many email systems have tools built in to help keep you organized, so definitely experiment with them and make them work for you!
Texts and emails are not the same thing
Sometimes simple answers in email are appropriate. But oftentimes an email that needs a full response ends up with a one-word text message instead. Be sure to read the sender’s email thoroughly and respond fully to everything. If questions are left unanswered, this means that the sender has to either determine the answer using the crystal-ball method, or he/she has to follow up with you and re-ask questions.
Say thank you!
Yes! Please please PLEASE use common forms of kindness in email; this includes but is not limited to “thank you.” It’s very easy for email conversation to become clipped and almost downright rude. This can happen regardless of your intention if you aren’t mindful of what you’re sending. Remember that readers do not have facial expression, body language, or tone of voice through which to filter your words, so your real message can easily get lost without a little extra effort on your end. It simply comes down to having an awareness of the message your email is sending. You may want to proofread for meaning before hitting “send” just to make sure your reader will be able to understand what you are trying to say without misinterpreting how you are trying to say it.
Keep emails brief and to the point
Earlier in this blog, we mentioned that it’s important and polite to thoroughly read someone’s email and respond to each component instead of cutting corners. Well, that’s the reader’s responsibility. There are also some responsibilities on the part of the writer. Try your best to stay concise in emails so your reader will have an easy time reading and understanding you. The more times recipients have to re-read what you’ve sent, the less likely you are to get a prompt or thorough response. If you have multiple questions, break them down into bullet points. For multiple topics within one email, separate each bulleted section with a heading so readers can easily follow. A little organization and exactitude goes a long way in making the reader happy and with getting you a timely, useful response.
And other tips
Ever accidentally send an email before you were finished composing it? Next time, type your email completely first, only adding the sending address after you are done typing/editing.
When forwarding a message, double-check to ensure that you are clicking “forward” and not “reply.”
And when something is a little complicated and difficult to put into email, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and do it the old-fashioned way! Before you call, be sure to check out some tips on phone etiquette!