One of the most popular ways people communicate today is via email. When it comes to writing business-related emails, we need to understand that we’re all at different skill levels and have different educational backgrounds, and not everyone writes the same way.
Sometimes the way someone speaks in person can be totally different to the way they come across in writing, and therefore there can be confusion between parties at times, especially when people read and take things out of context.
I’ve put together 6 email etiquette tips which may help to clarify some things for you when it comes to writing business-related emails and understanding them and their context accordingly.
1. Watch Your Words and Be Polite
No matter how heated the situation may get, or whatever it is that is going on between all involved – you need to be professional and keep your cool.
Remember that people can’t always tell what the tone of your voice was or is intended to be in an email. So there’s no use arguing about something if you don’t understand or like what someone has said or if there’s a problem.
Here are some effective and efficient ways to resolve any misunderstandings and issues you may have when working and communicating with others.
- Take a deep breath and count to 10. Then pick up the phone and give them a call. Sometimes a short 5 minute call can be all it takes to fix the problem.
- Either way, discuss what the current situation is between the parties involved, and agree verbally and in writing upon what needs to be done to resolve the situation. You can even write up an agreement that all parties must abide by in order for a smooth transition through the situation, and have all necessary parties act accordingly at their ends to help resolve the situation.
- Formally and appropriately cut your losses and move on. If you find that the issue has gone too far out of hand to resolve, sometimes it’s best for all parties involved to agree on some sort of a “project termination agreement”, which could be a certain percentage of the project cost refunded that the client has already paid, along with any documentation you feel necessary to officially end the project. It’s really up to you and what you feel is the best way to end things.
2. Keep it Real but Keep it Professional
Try to use words and phrases that you’d normally use in everyday conversation and that make sense to you. You don’t have to use “big words” and think of complicated ways of saying things to try and “sound smart”.
Sometimes that can make you come across as being intimidating, or like you’re trying too hard to impress the other person. You only need to be as informative as you need to be to get the main point across of whatever it is you’re trying to say.
The way you communicate can also depend on the person you’re emailing as well. If you’re both liaising on a more corporate-type level, then feel free to communicate that way and use “big words”, elaborate explanations and what not, but who’s to say you can’t chuck in a casual “smiley” here and there too – it’s not a crime, right? 🙂
3. The Subject field is Important too
Always enter something relevant into the Subject field of the email that you’re sending. Not just for the recipient’s sake, but for yours as well.
Having something like “Howdy” or “Read this” as the subject won’t necessarily mean anything to the person receiving the email. Especially if they realise a week later that they need some important information from that email, and they find themselves digging through their Inbox to try and find it – I think we’ve all been there!
It can be an even more frustrating process when the Search feature of their email application only bases its search on the Subject field because it isn’t “intelligent enough” to search through the body contents of emails to find what they’re looking for.
So be sure to add a meaningful title into the Subject field of your emails. For example, if you’re touching base with someone regarding a logo design for your business, you could make the Subject something like, “Update on My Logo Design”.
4. Review your Email before you Send it
You may find yourself accidentally clicking the Send button before you got a chance to proof your email. This is probably the easiest of all email etiquette tips that you can avoid. Most email applications and software don’t give you the option to easily “undo” the sending of an email that you just sent with something like a simple “Ctrl+Z” – now that would be handy!
Always read over your emails to make sure you’ve addressed everything that you wanted to, and everything that the person you’re emailing has asked of you, like any questions that they may have asked.
To be extra safe, leave the “To” field empty until you’re absolutely sure your email is finished and you’re ready to send it. Then you can enter in the email address of the recipient(s) and click the Send button – smooth sailing!
5. Reply as Promptly as Possible
When you have received an email and have read it, it’s good practice to reply as soon as you can. A good guide to go by is to reply within 24-48 hours of receiving and reading an email, to keep things moving along.
Sometimes you may receive an email that is quite long and detailed, so you might need more time to go over it. If that’s the case, just be sure to send through a quick, short email to the sender to let them know that you’ve received their elaborate email, and that you’re in the processing of reviewing it and that you will reply shortly within the next couple of days.
Not replying to emails is almost just as impolite as not saying “hello” back to someone when they say hello to you. So whenever you’re liaising with someone via email, say if you’re getting a quote from someone to do a particular job, even if you choose not to go through with their quote, it’s courteous to just reply to their email and say that you’ve decided to go with someone else. It’s okay to say “no”!
6. Some General Things to Keep in Mind
- MAKE SURE YOUR CAPS LOCK IS OFF. (Woops!) Sometimes people can think that you’re yelling at them, even when you’re not. This is probably another one of the easiest email etiquette tips to remember. Use the Caps Lock key when necessary though, like if you wanted to emphasise the title of something in the email.
- If you have an email signature – use it. If you don’t – make one. Depending on the email client software that you’re using, you should be able to find basic tutorials online to teach you how to setup an email signature.
Share Your Thoughts or your own Email Etiquette Tips
I may decide to write another article about email etiquette another time. But if you didn’t know about some of the things I talked about in this article, hopefully they come of some use to you down the track. Feel free to post any other tips that you may have below.