Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Email Etiquette: How to Write an Effective Email

Can you remember a day without email? Neither can we. It has become one of the main sources of communication in both our personal and professional lives.

Its uses are many. You really cannot be effective in a job search without a virtual mailbox, and it’s difficult—in many cases, impossible—to fulfill responsibilities at work without being an effective email communicator.

When it boils down, the point of email is a call to action. What do you need done? Clarified? Many important deals and conversations happen over email, so being an intentional and straightforward “emailer” matters.

Tips for Effective Emails:

Watch Your Tone: Just as important when speaking, tone is a way we convey an overall message. But the inflection of your voice is much easier to understand than tone in an email. Be conscious of your wording in emails. Adding or deleting a word or two can make a sentence read completely different. Reread to minimize misunderstandings. Not sure? Get another opinion.

Recipe for Success: Pepper your emails with vocabulary that match your relationship with the person you’re writing to. Word of caution: Communicating with such people as bosses and hiring managers is not the time to try out new words. Be sure to take a few moments to edit your message to avoid misspellings as well. Here are some words that are commonly written incorrectly.

LOL: Casual, abbreviated lingo used in texting and IMing can not only give leave a bad impression in workplace correspondence but cause miscommunications. Use correct punctuation and grammar.

Mind Your P’s and Q’s: We’re taught that saying “please” is polite, right? But, going back to the idea of tone, it’s difficult to tell through reading an email the intended inflection of the author. The word “please” is particularly tricky. Pause for a minute over the word. Could it be interpreted as condescending? Does your email read clearly without it?

Why Are You Yelling? Caps lock. Need we say more? There aren’t many instances when capitalizing streams of words helps communication. What it does do is give the impression of shouting. You wouldn’t yell at your co-worker, would you? Don’t accidentally do it in an email.

If You’re Happy and You Know It: Use an exclamation point! You can say you’re excited to meet with someone by just putting one of these fun guys at the end of a sentence. But, and this is a big but, exclamation points can be easily overused. A good rule of thumb is to use them as much as you want while composing your message, and then go back and delete all but one... maybe two.

21 Questions: Be brief, and try not to ask more than one thing of a person per email. Then, include some white space around the question you’re asking so that the request is not buried in a chunk of text. Assume every person you email is skimming.

Sign Here: Have a thread of emails? Delete your signature line at the bottom after a few responses back and forth. It clears some of the clutter from communications.

Another tip to make life easier: Is it an important email you’re composing? Include keywords so you’re able to find it quickly when searching your inbox.

Overall, make sure you’re communicating in such a way that you wouldn’t mind if another person were to read your message. Emails can be forwarded with a swift click of a button. In addition, it’s common in workplace correspondence for others to be added to a thread of emails. These people now have the ability to read your previous communications. Be aware.

That said, walking down the hallway to speak to a co-worker face to face or calling someone on the phone should not be overlooked. This type of communication is more personable, lending itself to building strong relationships (when not overdone). This can help you stay top-of-mind when yearly reviews come around and the potential for a raise is on the table.

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