In this world where everyone’s texting each other and abbreviating everything, it’s still good to see that in the business world, things are still normal. Here are some reminders to help make sure your communication via email remains professional so that your business has that level of presentation.
1. Don’t Forget the Greeting and Closing
You may sometimes be tempted to skip the greeting but keep doing it. You look more professional and courteous that way. You can never go wrong doing this.
The closing helps signify that you’re done. If you don’t close it with your name, then people might keep scrolling to see if you’ve written more.
Oh, and don’t write anything after you close it with your name.
2. Remember that Two Spaces After a Period is Wrong
Yeah, sorry… it is. We’re not using typewriters anymore. We’re using proportional fonts, not monospaced fonts (like Courier New).
Here’s a good reference on that:
Grammar Girl: Two Spaces After a Period (quickanddirtytips.com)
3. Use Some Nice Formatting
Break things up into easy to read paragraphs (small). Put spaces between paragraphs. Indent things (use that tab key). I like to indent website addresses. Your emails should be easy to scan and read. When you do that, you’re making your emails easy to read and you’ll get more replies more quickly because your emails are not a “chore” to read through.
4. No Hard Breaks
Ok, this is just a pet peeve of mine. When you use an email program or service (like GMail) that inserts hard breaks, you’re creating problems.
First, URLs can break up. This means that email programs that automatically turn URLs into links will usually create links that won’t work. This is if the URL is long. A good way to combat this is to use a URL shortener.
Second, if there are hard breaks and the recipient’s screen is actually less wide than what some programmer arbitrarily thought it should be, you get the hard breaks putting 1-3 words on a line or something like that. It’s much better to not have any hard breaks and just let the text flow.
Apple Mail does not insert hard breaks. I love using it. GMail and Outlook seem to add hard breaks.
5. Re-read Your Emails Before Sending Them
I make mistakes all the time. I found that a quick re-read of what I send helps prevent most of these mistakes from being sent.
The problem with email is that you it’s just text. It’s hard to show emotion in email. This means that you have to be extra clear and extra careful with email so that you’re not misunderstood. Re-reading and correcting things helps that.
If your email is not clear about something, then people have to reply back and ask what you mean. This is inefficient. If you would have been more clear, then all of this could have been avoided. Help the reader.
6. Reference URLs
If you’re talking about a certain web page, just include it. Don’t say something like:
“Go to the home page and click on the 3rd link and then go halfway down and click on the red link.”
How do you count the third link?
Which red one?
Just copy the website address from your browser and paste it in your email to avoid all that possible confusion. Help the reader.
7. Don’t Send Emotional Emails
I’ve done this. We’ve all done this. I’m getting a lot better at it.
Instead of just writing up a quick email in an emotional response to something that’s going on, I try to wait. Sometimes I’ll write it and then wait to send it. I’ll wait an hour or two, look it over and make changes. When I do this, I’m often very happy that I didn’t send the first version.
When I send them too early, I feel like my brain’s emotion is overpowering logic and I come off looking like a “hot head.” I don’t want that reputation. It’s hard to resist – the fighter in me wants to respond right away and release the frustration… and it does feel good to do that. A certain emotional need gets satisfied.
I think the wiser way is to just wait. Tell me what you think about this, I’m curious.
8. Have Good Subject Lines
First, they shouldn’t be blank. Those emails are likely to be lost or deleted and you don’t want that. Put something in there that has to do with what the email is about. Would you start reading a book without knowing the title of the book? Of course not. You, as the creator of the email, need to give it a title/subject. To be professional, it should sum up what the email is about. Sometimes I write it after I complete the email or I might change it from what I had there originally.
Make sure the subject line is clear and direct to the point. Business people are in a hurry, so don’t beat around the bush.
Second, if the subject changes, it’s ok to reference the change. There’s a protocol for that, too.
For example, here’s the original subject line with a reply:
Re: The New Format for TPS Reports
If the subject of the email (after a few times going back and forth) became about working on Saturday, then you (or someone in the conversation – you can) should change the subject line. In order to make the email easy to track in email programs, you should reference the original title. This kind of links things together:
Re: Working on Saturday [was: The New Format for TPS Reports]
You use brackets and then put “was:” in there.
Once this email has gone around the conversation once, you can remove the brackets so that it’s just this:
Re: Working on Saturday
9. Think Twice Before You Click “Reply to All”
Think about who should be in the conversation. We all hate tons of email, so if your reply only pertains to one person now, then cut the rest of them out – that is, if you don’t think they’re going to be in the conversation again.
10. For Goodness Sake, Have an Email Signature
Having your contact information on every email you send is essential. It’s actually borderline rude to not have this information in your emails. If people need to get a hold of you, they’re going to look at emails that you’ve sent them. This is also helpful for new contacts. You should list:
- Your name (yes, again – you just want all this info together)
- Your title
- Your phone numbers (office, fax, cell)
- Business address
- Business website address (either use the URL, which is the “http://” address or “www.yourdomain.com”)
Attaching a logo in your email signature is not a good idea. When you do this, every one of your emails is going to look like it has an attachment. People then need to see if you’ve sent something important that they need to open and look at or read and it ends up just being your logo. You’re wasting everyone’s time, so this is also kind of rude.
You can still have a logo show up in your email signature without attaching it. It’s a little bit of work to set up but it’s not that difficult. You basically need to link to the logo on your website. Not “link” as in make it so that someone can click on it but include it as an image reference (is how us HTML geeks would say it).
Here are some resources to help you with that:
- Logo email signatures without attaching or embedding (lenashore.com)
- How to Add an Image to Your Email Signature Without it Appearing Like an Attachment (scottallen.com)
- Email Logo (webstix.com)
Why is Email Etiquette Important in the Workplace?
How you write emails is important – more than you know!
Why? Well, you’re communicating without speaking and without body language and all that good stuff. There’s no tone associated with your email if you’re not careful. There are ways to show tone but you might be missing those things and you might not even know it.
A company needs to implement etiquette rules for the following three reasons:
- Professionalism: by using proper email language your company will convey a professional image.
- Efficiency: emails that get to the point are much more effective than poorly worded emails.
- Protection from liability: employee awareness of email risks will protect your company from costly lawsuits.
Billions of emails are sent daily. Sure, there’s a lot of spam in there but email is how business gets done today. Emails you send need to professionally represent your company. You have a brand to uphold and your company might have a set of rules and guidelines for writing email.
Those rules might include:
- Always greet who you are sending your email to (“Hello Paul,”)
- Always sign your emails (“Thank you, -Tony”)
- Never write in ALL CAPS
- All emails need a subject line
- Use a company approved signature with your contact information
I use Apple Mail for my email program and what’s cool is that it scans email for contact information and then asks me if I want to add or update my contact list. I love that. It goes directly to my iPhone and all my computers and devices. The only problem is that probably only half of the people I communicate with have their contact information in their email signature.
Email signatures are really easy to set up, so I don’t get why not everyone is using them. Yes, sometimes a phone call does work better… which number do I call? How do I get a hold of you?
Yes, don’t slip with your email communication just because you see others doing it. It takes effort to hold the line and keep things professional.
Here are a lot more tips if you want to dig into making your emails the best they can be:
101 Email Etiquette Tips (101emailetiquettetips.com)