For many of us, email has been part of our lives for so long that there’s no way we could part ways with it. We’ve all forwarded entertaining videos to friends, or used email to communicate important information about big events. But the way in which we speak to those close to us is drastically different from the way we communicate at work.
Every day people make silly mistakes and are careless with the way they present themselves online. It’s not necessarily their fault, though. Email has become such a casual part of our lives that we put about as much thought into our emails as the texts we’re sending a friend.
But when it comes to our professional image, how we craft emails – and our responses to emails – can be a driving factor in how your career progresses.
Therefore, it’s time to let go of our old habits and embrace the professional within. With these 5 best practices for writing business emails, you’ll be able to demonstrate to everyone from your client to your boss that you mean business…literally.
1. Make Sure You’re Emailing the Right People
As important as it is to get the right emails to the right people, you also need to be sure you don’t add the wrong people either. Double checking that whomever you’re emailing is supposed to be receiving the email – as well as making sure you use their business email versus their personal email – will keep you looking like the competent professional you are.
2. Address Everyone Appropriately
Sometimes you work with people for a while and develop a solid relationship. At times that can even extend beyond the workplace and develop into a friendship. While that is great, you also want to make sure that when you’re speaking with them in email, particularly if others are CC’d, that you’re addressing them appropriately.
You may be close with your boss, but referring to them by their nickname when you have C-Suite executives on the email may make Mike “Mikey” Malone look less professional and lose status.
Therefore, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and use the appropriate titles (Mr./Mrs./Dr./etc) or at minimum use their proper name, unless it’s established to refer to them as something else.
3. Use Clear Subject Lines
The body of your email exists so you can fill in the details. The subject of your email shouldn’t be a paragraph. Similarly, the subject line should be specific enough that whomever receives it knows exactly what the email is about.
Notice the difference in these examples:
- Friday’s Business Meeting Has Been Moved to 12:30 pm and We Will Be Discussing Our New Sales Software As Well As When We Will Train Employees On That Software
- Rescheduled Meeting
- Rescheduled Sales Software Meeting: Friday at 12:30 p.m.
The first is too long and specific, and the second is too short, generic, and confusing. But just like Goldilocks, the third one is juuust right. You get the specifics of what will be discussed, as well as the updated time. Only the essentials.
4. Be Mindful of Word Choice (and Length)
Similar to the idea of being specific and concise with your subject line, you want to do the same in the body of the email. If you’re writing out the equivalent of three pages worth of information, then that email may be better served as a phone call or Zoom meeting. At minimum, adding a separate attachment with the information will make you look like more of a professional than having a novel in the body.
Further, and similarly to number 2, you want to be cautious of how you’re speaking in your emails. Excessive slang, confusing acronyms, and a too-casual tone may turn people off from wanting to work with you or your company. Again, it’s always best to err on the side of professionalism until you’ve established a more casual rapport with your client, coworker, or whomever.
That said, if communications involve people outside of that circle, revert back to your professional lingo. If you’re required to dress professionally at work, make your email verbiage reflect that same level of professionalism.
It’s far too easy to hit send, go back to reread, and realize you forgot a comma, or you used the wrong form of you’re vs your. It’s even more embarrassing when you misspell someone’s name, or don’t even use their name correctly. If her name is Mary and you reply “Hi Megan!” – you just lost a significant amount of credibility. You likely even lost some of her respect. And, in the worst case scenario, you may even lose the client.
Communication is paramount, and proper spelling and grammar can be an indicator to a potential client that you don’t care, aren’t professional, or aren’t educated enough to be doing business with them. So take your time, craft a well-written email, double check your spelling and grammar, double check names, and be sure you’re using appropriate language.
By following this guide, you’ll be the professional everyone wants to work with because you’re cognizant of how you present yourself, and your company.
This taste of email best practices isn’t even a full appetizer. There are so many more things to enhance your email best practices, and the next step won’t cost you anything but a little bit of your time.
Register for our complimentary 45-minute webinar to learn how to feel in control of your inbox, be more responsive to important collaborators, and reduce your anxiety and stress. Tame the Email Beast!
ARTT™ demonstrates time-saving techniques within Outlook primarily; however, the concept is platform-agnostic. It is about teaching your human habits connected to technology, whether Outlook, Gmail, or even AOL Mail if anyone still uses that.
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