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Communicating Professionally with Email

AWG held a lunch and learn this week titled “Communicating Professionally”. Those of us who attended received many good takeaways from the session. We even had a chance to partner up and practice listening techniques and demonstrate what NOT to do. I would like to share some tips we were given on using email as a form of communication in business.

Be concise and to the point. Your reader should not have to scroll down the page to read a single email. This of course is acceptable if they are reading an entire email string in conversation view.

When responding to someone’s email, answer all questions. Have you ever been excited to get a response you have eagerly been waiting for only to find out all your questions were not answered?

If you don’t know the answer to all of them, refer to someone who can help. Pre-empt relevant questions if you are able to. This will provide efficiency for your reader.

Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. I don’t think I need to expand on this, but I will. Improper spelling, grammar and punctuation not only give a bad impression of your company, but it can change the meaning of the message.

Structure and layout your email in a way that is easy to read. It is easier for people to read small chunks of information rather than long paragraphs. Use a space between paragraphs. Use bullets when applicable. It all helps to break up the message into smaller pieces, making it more digestible.

Do not overuse the high priority option. Your message will come across as aggressive and it will lose its function when you really need it. Try to avoid being THAT person.

Don’t write in all CAPITALS. It seems as if you are shouting and might trigger an unwanted response. Use capitals sparingly only when you want to emphasis a certain word.

Don’t leave out the message thread. When continuing a conversation, use ‘Reply’ rather than starting a New Email.

Read the email before you send it. Check for errors. Try to read it in the eyes of your recipient to ensure its effectiveness and to avoid misunderstandings.

Do not overuse ‘Reply to All’. Only use this if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message.

Take care with abbreviations and emoticons. Abbreviations such as BTW and LOL are perfectly fine when messaging friends, but are not appropriate in business emails. The same goes for emoticons.

Be careful with formatting. Keep in mind some recipients may not see fonts display the same way you see them. If you change the color of text, use a color that is easy to read on the background. In most cases, colored text is not necessary unless you are trying to differentiate one block of text from another.

Take care with rich text and HTML messages. Although most email clients can now receive rich text and html messages, some recipients may only be able to view plain text emails.

Do not forward chain letters. Hopefully, these are filtered out before they reach you, but if you receive them, it is best to delete them. They are not appropriate for business email.

Do not request delivery and read receipts. People find it annoying for one thing. Besides that, based on the recipient’s email settings, this function may be blocked anyway.

Do not ask to recall a message. You may feel silly sending out an email with a mistake in it but most likely by the time you send the recall, the message has already been delivered and read. You will end up making yourself look even more silly. It is better to be honest by sending another email to say you made a mistake.

Do not use email to discuss confidential information. This also goes for discriminating comments.

Avoid long sentences. And long emails for that matter. Email is meant to be a quick medium and requires a different kind of writing than letters. If someone receives an email that looks very long, chances are they will not even attempt to read the entire thing. Or they will lower its priority and put it in their “Read Later When I Have Time On My Hands” folder.

Don’t send or forward emails containing slanderous, offensive, racist or obscene content. Not only is this inappropriate but it can lead to legal issues for your company and yourself. Don’t do it.

Use ‘Cc:’ field sparingly. Try to use it only when the recipient in the Cc: field knows why they are receiving a copy of the message. It should be when they need to be informed of the email but are not required to act on it. Anyone requested to act on the email should be listed in the ‘To:’ field.

Write a salutation or greeting for each new subject email. If you are starting a conversation with someone, it is polite to open it by saying “hi”. Consider the same etiquette when emailing someone. If you are exchanging emails over the same topic, it is not necessary to greet them each time, just as we don’t say “hello” each time we speak in a single conversation. Well, unless you are George in the movie, Crazy People.

I hope these tips are helpful. Don’t worry if you have not always followed each of these rules. Now is as good of a time to start as any.

Why do I work at AWG? I appreciate having the opportunity to use my creative and web development skills to assist our retailers in marketing their stores. AWG is a reputable company and the marketing department consists of a great team, working together in a fun environment. Plus I love to eat! I especially like trying new products.