Emails are still the most common form of written communication in most organisations. Yet, the speed of transmission of emails is both an advantage and a trap. Many team members remain blissfully unaware of the etiquette of business email writing.
It’s quick and easy to get your reader offside. Here are 3 highly effective ways.
1. Use too many words, or not enough
Technique. To make your reader feel as though they have been hit over the head with a blunt object, write long unedited emails (over 100 words) with no paragraph breaks or headings.
Outcome. By burying your message in a mass of words, the reader thinks you don’t value their time. They will probably also get a headache.
Technique. To make your reader feel ignored and undervalued, keep your emails brief (more like a tweet, SMS or social media post). Use sentence fragments rather than full sentences. To save you time and reduce the number of keys you have to press, use abbreviations wherever possible.
Outcome. The reader thinks you are rude and focused on yourself rather than their needs.
2. Don’t do a spell and grammar check
Technique. Write whatever comes into your head, forgetting about capital letters or punctuation. Don’t worry about re-reading the email to correct errors before you hit 'send'.
Outcome. The reader thinks you don’t take care with other aspects of your work. Consequently, they will lose confidence in you and your organisation.
3. Leave off the greeting and signature
Technique. Launch straight into your email without greeting your reader. Don’t bother to write your name or add an electronic signature.
Outcome. The reader doesn’t know your name or what you prefer to be called, and feels no connection with you.
An alternative approach to email writing
Regardless of what type of communication you are writing, always re-read your work at least once and complete a spell and grammar check.
It also pays to:
- ensure the content of your communication is clear, concise and focused on the needs of the reader
- use complete, correctly punctuated sentences and a professional tone
- include only what the reader needs to know, rather than overwhelming them with too much information
- avoid acronyms and abbreviations (e.g. write ‘and’ instead of ‘&’, ‘September’ instead of ‘Sept’).
The etiquette of greetings and signatures
A commonly accepted greeting in emails is ‘Hi [followed by name]’. ‘Dear’ is still sometimes used for more formal emails. Avoid ‘Hey’, which is considered poor etiquette.
If you don’t know the recipient’s name, you can use a descriptive term like ‘Hi Team’ or ‘Dear Recruitment Manager’. Commonly used sign-offs in business include ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Regards’.
Even if your full name is included in the electronic signature, type your first name before adding the electronic signature. Not only is this courteous, it alerts the reader to what you prefer to be called. For example, your first name in your email signature may be ‘Kathryn’ or ‘Jonathan’, but you prefer to be called ‘Kath’ or ‘Jon’.
When immediacy becomes your enemy
Team members commonly report that they don’t have enough time to check their emails. It’s tempting when you have a heavy workload to cut corners. In the long run, this could cost you more time and even lost income.
If you get an incorrect response or no response, you will need to take time to follow up. You could also earn the reputation of being lazy or sloppy (or both). This could cost you a coveted promotion or lead to reputational damage for your organisation.