There is no doubt that email has greatly improved communication in almost all aspects of our lives. My husband and I keep track of our children and appointments with emails, my staff corresponds with clients and each other via email on a daily basis, and we know that many people are using email as a way to try and get their foot in the door. As important as an email can be, it still astonishes me at how lazy, unprofessional and completely unnecessary some emails can be. I sit on three different boards and numerous sub-committees and I try to teach all of them some basic email etiquette.
The basic workplace email etiquette rules are:
- Be clear and concise – try not to make an email longer than it needs to be. Add as much detail as the email requires (see #2), however, try to avoid long winded situations. There are some instances where just picking up the phone would be a lot easier then typing out a 5 page email. Make it easy on yourself and on the person who is receiving the email.
- Answer all questions – one of my biggest pet peeves is receiving a partially complete email from someone. If you do not answer all of the questions asked in an original email, you are just prompting further emails which will waste your time and the recipients time. A great example of this is when people email me about what credit cards we accept. I could reply with just the names of the credit cards, however, naming the credit cards and telling them how to go about making a payment answers their initial question and probably the question they would have asked next.
- Spell check and read aloud if necessary – spell check cannot fix grammatical errors. If you are sending an email to someone, please re-read it before hitting send. A friend of mine received an email stating “I look forward to spanking with you again”. Ouch. Luckily she has a good sense of humor, but not everyone will. Also, try to avoid using acronyms and short hand. It really is not that hard to type out you instead of “u” or okay instead of “k” and it makes you appear a thousand times more professional.
- Watch who you are replying and sending to – I sit on many boards who use distribution lists or email aliases as a way to communicate with a larger group of people through a single email point. For example, I can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded on to all the board members for that group. There are times when it is appropriate to send a message to the entire board, however, 9 times out of 10 the email could have just been sent to those people immediately affected by the message. Along these same lines, only use reply all when it is totally necessary for everyone to see the message. Remember, we all get too many emails as it is. A reply all could be completely unnecessary.
Implementing these rules will make your emails more professional and efficient and more likely to get read. If I consistently receive emails of this caliber from an individual, they are way more likely to get read and responded to.