Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán
“An email can make or break a potential opportunity for you, so send and respond to them wisely.” – Leila Lewis
Office etiquette can either make or break a business. In the large spectrum of business etiquette, email etiquette is one of the most overlooked, despite its importance in communication. Email writing is an art – when utilized well, it can have a huge positive impact on the reader. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. An inappropriate, offensively written, and vague email could create a very poor impression of you and your company. It could lead to some of the audience ‘blocking’ out communication from your company and stop being a customer. They can also forward the errant email to their friends and associates, potentially keeping them away from your business.
To write good emails, it is vital for a person to have good written communication skills. Many companies, therefore, outsource their written content to professional writers, to make a good impression on their customers. Email marketing and business emails are indispensable parts of business communication. Hence, they must be able to convey a message in a precise and concise manner. With the right tools, like interactive decision trees, businesses can have self-service options that guarantee customer satisfaction.
Quality and professionalism
When a company sends out an email, it should ensure that it is checked for quality. It must be free from typographical errors, jargon, short forms, and other such content that could create confusion and annoyance for the reader. The email tone should convey professionalism and be clear of being too casual or informal. Email etiquette in business must never be overlooked.
In the current frenzy lifestyle, most people don’t have the time to listen/read. Unless they benefit from what the email conveys. If your company is sending mass emails with no use to a large portion of the audience, they are marked as spam. They block out any possibility of business in the future. A large part of email etiquette in business is the personalization and customization of content and message. Ignoring this aspect could you on the path to failure.
Tone and attitude
The other common mistake that people often make in written communication is to write as they speak. While your company is trying to establish a rapport with the readers through email communication, the tone and ‘attitude’ of the content should be different from face-to-face communication. In personal interactions, there are other aspects of communication that acquire equal importance as words.
These are expressions, tone of voice, body language, and other such non-verbal signals. However, to maintain email etiquette, the content must be engaging and informative, friendly but not overly formal. It should not have jargon. Writing an email that will have the huge positive impact you hope for must be well-articulated and meticulously written.
The message each company is trying to convey through emails is different. However, email etiquette would remain standard. Know when to use humor, personalization, refrain from using jargon and abbreviations, and other such email etiquette. Email etiquette is part of the larger realm of online/internet etiquette. Every company and individual should know and be mindful of the words and expressions they use. They should also be aware of the effect these would have on the readers.
Rules of email etiquette
Email etiquette starts with being polite and courteous in the ‘tone’ of the messages. However, it goes beyond politeness. The email message should be meaningful and effective enough to solicit the kind of responses that you would want for your company. If you are not receiving responses or your readership is declining, it means your company is making blunders from an email etiquette perspective.
The first step towards maintaining email etiquette is that the content must be relevant and succinct. Information overload and unnecessary details are reasons enough for people to never look at another email from your company. Stick to a few key points in the body of your email. These points should match the email subject line. For most people, reading emails is often a task that is done on the go. It means that they could be accessing them via the smaller screens of their hand-held devices. Long and cumbersome messages result in deletion. Not once, but every time your company sends out a message.
Highlight crucial information at the beginning
Email etiquette is not only for external customers. Companies convey important and even confidential information. To avoid the loss of key elements of the message, the critical message should be at the beginning along with a ‘call to action’. This saves time and effort for the reader. It allows them to view the essence of the message at the start and avoids the risk of missing out on the vital portion of the message due to paucity of time.
Email messages should be easy to read
Email etiquette also translates to ease of reading the message. This means that wherever possible, provide bullet / numbered points, especially, if there are queries or answers to queries. Broken-down points catch the attention of readers quicker than what seems like a ‘long endless paragraph’ with useless information. It’s also prudent to limit the number to a maximum of 5-6. points. It makes the email appear attractive and readable.
Indicate emails that require a response
Sometimes emails are sent purely to convey some important information and don’t require a response. In such cases, email etiquette demands that you mention it at the start of the email. In fact, mentioning this upfront puts the reader at ease and they would be more inclined to read the message.
In the course of projects/deadline-based assignments, email communication must include timelines. However, in keeping with email etiquette, remember that sounding too bossy or pushy can have a negative impact. The email message should state the implications of a failed deadline with a request to receive responses in time. Here’s an example:
As part of the culture of a giant corporation, it is essential to respond to all emails sent on a particular day – before the end of the day. Meaning, even if you don’t have all the answers or the email response requires some thought, as per email etiquette you must write back to the sender confirming that you have received the email and will respond by X (give a timeline) with the answers. Not responding to official emails can be interpreted as avoidance, rudeness, and slacking. All words bring about strife and friction in the workplace.
Avoid rude email response
A rule of thumb (for any kind of communication actually) is that one must never respond when emotionally charged. Especially, if the message received caused one to be angry. As mentioned, email communication can only convey a limited amount of content. Hence, it’s imperative that the tone and content of the message are carefully weighed before sending. Email etiquette demands that if responding angrily to an annoying message creates misunderstanding, it is best to either postpone the response or speak directly to the person.
You don’t need to reply to all
Don’t you hate it when an email communication hits your inbox with a number of recipients and people begin to answer it by hitting ‘reply all’? Remember not to send a message to all unless it’s necessary. The response should be sent to relevant recipients. It is a clear breach of email etiquette to reply to all, simply because it is easier to do.
Practicing email etiquette with customers and within the company enables one to gain respect and forge better relationships with others. Email is a means of communication and it should convey care and respect for the recipient.