Email Etiquette: Write Immaculate Emails and get things done!

Emails have become the primary medium of communication in the corporate world. Most often than not, we end up sending an email before we actually get to work. Of course, many times the task itself is an email. How ironic!

Success in the workplace depends on how effective we are in our communication. Email communication, by taking up a major chunk of that, has to then be absolutely immaculate!

Here are a few Email Etiquette pointers to help you write effective, clear and immaculate emails:

1. Emails should not be the 1st attempt of communication: Yes, while we evolve and bring technology to the forefront, nothing gets work done better than the human-to-human connect. Use email, but only after you have tried at least once connect with your recipient(s) in-person or through the phone. Your chances of getting a response and the input you need will increase dramatically.

2. A powerful and unique subject: I have asked many of my participants what would be the subject of the mail if they write to their manager asking for leaves, the most common answer: “Leave Request”. Would it not be better if we made it more specific and unique, something like “Leave Request: 5-9 June”.

It is important to make the subject unique and easily discoverable in a search by adding important keywords and data points. It will tremendously help the recipient gauge the content of the mail.
Note: Subject need not be grammatically correct, you can use keywords in a decent sequence.

3. Structured paragraphs: Ever seen emails that are long and beat around the bush? Or they explain too much in detail without clear takeaways? It is all due to unstructured paragraphs. Imagine I had written this article itself in 1 long paragraph without sub-headings and numbering.

Bullets and numbering are a very effective way to structure your mail body. Use them especially if you are making 3 or more valuable inputs.

4. Spelling and Grammar: When we are talking to someone, some of our grammatical errors may go unnoticed, spelling anyways is not an issue. But since emails are the written word, errors in spelling and grammar will stand out every time someone reads the mail.

Try and do multiple proofreads of each email, and don’t just depend on auto spell check. Gretchen Gavett in his article on HBR Ascend recommends the number of proofreads depending on the number of recipients of your mail:
  • 1 to 5 recipients = 2 to 4 revisions
  • 5 to 10 recipients = 8 to 12 revisions
  • Company-wide or to Executive Committee = 30 to 50 revisions

5. The tone of your mail: Keep your cool… always! How one communicates through emails also contributes a major chunk to their perception in the organization. And organizations like people who are emotionally stable and can maintain their cool despite ups and downs. Thus, it is important we keep a polite and professional tone of all our emails, even if the other party made a blunder, or caused you trouble at work.

6. Hygiene factors: There are a few do’s and don’ts applicable in all situations when writing an email, we can call them hygiene factors:
a. Avoid ALL CAPS
b. Avoid Bcc: unless it is a bulk mail, using Bcc conveys lack of transparency
c. To and CC must be in a proper order and not random, preferably higher to lower designation
d. Avoid smileys unless other party initiates, and stick to the 😊 only
e. Don’t use ‘reminder 1’, ‘reminder 2’. You are not the snooze function of their alarm. Write a line or two urging your recipient to respond and state the reason why
f. Avoid unprofessional words and phrases (click to read more)

While we keep all of the above in mind when writing emails, we must also remember to organize our mailbox into folders and categories so that while writing and responding to emails we have all the information we need at our fingertips. It will also reduce stress levels.

For further reading, the business backer's email etiquette infographic is one of the most structured resources I have found yet. (Link Here)

Please do share your thoughts and additional tips for writing cool emails in the comments below.

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