Many businesses communicate via email. It’s quick, simple, and convenient. Plus, email is indestructible. If you forget what you were asked, look for the answer in the most recent email thread. Email is also a good way to share information among team members. Unsending an email, on the other hand, is not possible.
So, before you hit the send button, double-check that your email is in an appropriate form for business communication. Business emails should be used to send the following types of information:
- Relevant. When a quick call or face-to-face conversation isn’t enough, use email. Emails should only be sent when they are necessary and relevant to the recipient.
- Timely. When time is tight, email can be the perfect tool. It enables you to quickly send relevant information to everyone on your team.
- Content-rich. Email is a good tool to use when you need to share file attachments or links to web-based content.
Who you send your messages to will form an opinion of you based on how you use email, especially if you haven’t met the recipient in person. Your email serves as a first impression. This is especially true for those looking for work. Recruiters and others in your network may put you on a “do not call” list if you use email inappropriately.
Use proper email etiquette to set yourself apart, whether you’re a small business using email for marketing or communication or a job seeker sending an email inquiry. Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to using email for business communication.
- Avoid all caps, slangs, and exclamation marks. Because email is such a casual mode of communication, it’s easy to add a few exclamation points or use all caps to emphasise a point. Instead, using all caps makes it appear as if you’re yelling, and using too many exclamation points makes you appear overly enthusiastic or insincere. It goes without saying that you should avoid using slang. Unless you’re writing to one of your peers, industry-specific jargon is included in slang.
- Overuse of bold, underline, and italics void emphasis. While one type of emphasis, such as bold, is acceptable, avoid using multiple types of emphasis in a single email. Overusing bold, underline, or italics in a single email is a no-no. To draw the eye from one point to another, use emphasis. As the reader scans from one bolded word to the next and so on, think of emphasised words as forming their own sentence.
- Be respectful with your tone. Avoid using negative or accusatory language to stay positive and professional. Rephrase sentences in a neutral tone to convey the message.
- Be mobile-friendly with short and concise messages. Avoid writing a story. More than half of all emails are misinterpreted, with only 53% of them being read. One-third of business professionals use their mobile device to check email. According to the same study, seven out of ten users will delete emails that do not display correctly on a phone right away.
- Be careful when trying to be funny. Humor is a highly personal experience. What you find amusing, another person may find offensive. Keep in mind that email lacks tone, body language, and other nonverbal cues.
- Salutations and closings should be professional and respectful. It’s fine to say “good morning, Jane” or “hello” to your recipient. If you’re looking for a job, avoid being too casual. Use the recipient’s preferred name whenever possible. And keep a respectful closing. “I look forward to hearing from you,” “best,” or “thank you” are all appropriate closings.
- Create a professional signature. A professional signature should be included in all email messages. Include job title, company, website, and phone number, as well as other relevant contact information. If you’re looking for work, a link to your LinkedIn profile is a must. Include links to your company’s social media pages when appropriate.
- Use succinct subject lines. Your subject lines should be no more than 50 characters long, or six to ten words long. Be short and to the point: Meeting at 4 p.m. on June 22nd, 10 reasons to hire an assistant, or it was nice meeting you yesterday.
- Giving timely and appropriate response. Try responding to emails within 24 hours. Send a quick “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can” or, better yet, “I’ll get back to you by noon tomorrow” if your response requires more time. This is always appreciated and shows respect for the sender.
- Proofreading. It’s important to remember that you can’t take back an email you’ve sent. Everything, including your message, spelling, grammar, and signature, should be double-checked. Make sure you’ve included attachments and/or links to any documents you’ve mentioned in your email. The worst thing you can do is send a resume without attaching it!