Email is a large part of our working lives. According to Digital Marketing Ramblings (2019), the average office worker’s inbox receives 121 emails daily. This does not include the numerous messages and notifications we receive from social media or workplace project management platforms.
That’s why it’s so essential to craft a well-written email that has a clear purpose and goes straight to the point. By putting a great deal of care and thought into your emails, you’ll be able to build successful working relationships. It could also save you and the reader time and improve your company’s bottom line.
Here are 12 tips that will help you with email best practices.
1) Keep emails brief
When writing an email, you need to keep your message concise. Include all critical information in your email but avoid wordiness. Sending brief and straightforward emails shows that you respect the recipient’s time. Very few people have time to read lengthy emails. The last thing you want is for your audience to disregard your message due to length.
Emails tend to be more suited for sharing resources such as links and documents, recapping conversations, or recording decisions or requests. But, if you need to explain things at length or discuss a major project, communicate by phone or hold an in-person meeting.
2) Use bullet points and be clear about what you want the reader to do
Breaking your email down to bullet points can make it easier for the reader to go through the message quickly and identify the main points. Bullet points are especially suitable if you’re communicating with close colleagues about a project.
Also, include a clear call to action. Be clear and stress action and due date by italicizing it or typing it in bold.
3) Use the To:, CC:, and BCC: fields appropriately
It’s important to use email fields correctly; otherwise, other people’s inboxes will end up cluttered with numerous emails, some of which might not be relevant to them. Here is what each field does:
- To: Include the email address of the person (or persons) to whom the message directly concerns. Make sure you spell the email address correctly so that it will be delivered.
- CC: This field stands for carbon copy. You may use it to copy someone who does not need to take action but does need to be kept in the loop on the topic. Never use CC excessively or include people unnecessarily. You’ll clog up their inboxes, and they may stop checking emails from you altogether. In turn, they could miss out on important information. If you want the recipient to reply or take action, it’s better to use the “To:” field
- BCC: BCC stands for blind courtesy copy. Use this field when you do not want the other recipients to know this person is copied or that person doesn’t need to see any further responses. Any replies to the email will not go to those in the BCC line. Because of this, BCC is perfect for mass emails in which most of the recipients don’t know each other. This protects the privacy of the recipients’ contact information. You could also use BCC to keep interested third parties in the loop but don’t want them to reply or directly intervene. These include external work emails, such as correspondence with clients and vendors. Again, you need to avoid using BCC excessively as it could lead to distrust among your colleagues when they discover you copy others without their knowledge.
4) Make sure the subject line relates to the content
Ideally, the subject line should be seven words or less and encapsulate the purpose of the email. A clear subject will increase your email’s open rate. In addition, the content of the email needs to match up with the subject line; otherwise, it will confuse the receiver. Also, it makes it difficult for the recipient to find your email when they search their mailbox when the content doesn’t match the subject line.
5) Use the proper greeting
Which greeting you choose to open your message with will depend on who the recipient is. For example, reserve a casual greeting like ‘Hey‘ or ‘Hi folks‘ for a close friend or colleague. Use ‘Hi‘, ‘Hello‘ or ‘Dear‘ for a more professional feel. Try to avoid using ‘Dear Sir/Madam‘ as it comes across as impersonal. It will also give the impression that you haven’t researched your recipient. Always address the person by their name, whether you’re emailing a co-worker, client, prospect, or vendor.
6) Be careful when using emojis
In recent years, moderate use of emojis has become more acceptable in the workplace. But, you still need to use them sparingly and consider whether they’re appropriate at all in certain situations. If you’re emailing close colleagues or team members, emoji use may be appropriate. However, don’t use them with colleagues or clients you don’t know – unless they use them first. Be careful not to overuse emojis or exclamation marks as that tends to convey strong or stressed feelings.
7) Pay attention to tone
Overall, you need to write your emails in a professional and friendly tone. There is no harm with opening with a pleasantry like ‘hope you’re well’ or ‘hope you had a great vacation’ with colleagues or clients you know. But, don’t overcomplicate things by including humor or colloquialisms in your email. Humorous quotes and slang terms could mean different things to people of different cultures and could offend. Also, avoid sarcasm as not everyone will understand it and may take it the wrong way.
8) Reply to emails quickly
As a general rule of thumb, you need to aim to respond to your emails within 24 hours, even if it is to acknowledge that you’ve received them. This is particularly useful if you’re answering long emails to which you can write a brief reply saying when you will respond properly.
It’s best to check with your supervisor to identify your organization’s expectations. Part of great customer service is establishing expectations for timely replies to both colleagues and clients.
9) Use reply-all and forwarding appropriately
Use the reply-all feature sparingly. Does everyone need to see your response? If the information is sensitive or only concerns several recipients, use reply to choose specific recipients instead.
Forwarding a message is helpful when someone should receive the information on the email but was not on the original recipient list. But, be careful not to forward emails that contain sensitive information. If you don’t want the new contact to see it, remove the sensitive information before forwarding it. In addition, if you’re going to forward emails with long threads, summarize the key points above the original thread.
10) Never send or reply to emails when angry
Don’t let the keyboard warrior in you take over by sending or replying to emails when angry. You may end up writing something that you’ll later regret.
Give yourself time to compose yourself. Think things through and seek advice if necessary. You’ll develop a much more well-thought-out, balanced, and professional email. Or, you may opt to pick up the phone to talk it out instead of replying to an email. Chances are, if you are angry about something, you could benefit from a clear discussion about it.
11) Proofread your email
Always give your email a good proofread to spot any spelling and grammar errors and ensure your email makes sense. Any misspelled words and poorly constructed sentences will make you look unprofessional. It also helps to have a colleague look over your email, particularly if it’s an important one that needs to include crucial information.
12) Consider legal implications
It’s also important to anticipate any legal implications when sending and responding to emails. Emails sent to and from your work account are your company’s property. So it would be best if you made sure that your emails didn’t contain anything that could get you into trouble. For example, never send private data in an unsecured email, admit wrongdoing without consulting legal, make defamatory or harassing comments.
When used correctly, these email best practices are a powerful tool to promote communications and efficiency. Ensure your teams are trained correctly on etiquette, systems, and expectations!