Email is still the most-used form of communication in the business world, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Considering this, it’s important for professionals to use proper email etiquette when communicating with clients, colleagues and partners, and to be aware of how their email messages could be interpreted.
The following rules can help you craft and send more effective email messages:
1. Only use “reply all” when necessary: Although the “reply all” function holds importance in many situations, be aware of when and how you use it. If you are communicating information that is of importance to everyone connected to the email, use it. But if you are relaying information that is pertinent to one or two individuals, consider only including them.
2. Reply during business hours: Maintain your work/life balance by responding to emails only during the workday. This can be easier said than done, but often even the urgent messages sent late at night can wait until the next day for a response. Set the standard early and you can expect your colleagues to respect this rule, as well.
3. Save important messages: Email is a great resource when you need to pull up key information. Staying organized can help ensure you can access messages from weeks or months earlier that might now be relevant to a current project. A good folder system with accurate labeling is a good start.
4. Call if it requires multiple emails: Sometimes a phone call is the better way to communicate with others. If you find yourself with long strings of email conversations, chances are a simple phone call could more effectively clear things up.
5. Keep confidential information out of email: Remember that nothing is ever completely private. Your message could be forwarded on, printed out, stored on a server or saved by people who shouldn’t have access to certain information. Try to keep sensitive data and information out of email messages, especially if they involve several people.
6. Keep it brief: Think about it. Your colleagues and clients all have a lot to do. Your email messages should be respectful of that. Say what you need to say as concisely as possible. Others will appreciate it and be more apt to respond back in an equally respectful and prompt way.
7. Don’t email when emotional: If you are emotionally charged about a situation, take a moment before you send off an email message. Another good rule of thumb is to avoid writing anything in an email that you wouldn’t say to the recipient’s face. Take a deep breath, give it some thought and then craft a thoughtful response.
8. Proofread: Before you hit “send,” make sure you reread your message. A slight spelling or grammatical error can change the meaning of what you wrote—not to mention make you look unprofessional. A quick review can help ensure your emails reflect your high level of professionalism and competence.
Email has become such an integral part of our daily lives that you likely don’t put much thought into how you communicate through this channel. Keep these eight rules in mind as you write and respond to email messages.