In order to portray a professional image and get the message across clearly, business e-mails need to conform to certain professional parameters. During our workshops, in ‘groupwork’, delegates develop their own sets of ‘tips’ on e-mail etiquette and effectiveness. Below are the consolidated points from our most recent workshops:
- Write a specific, descriptive subject line which captures the essence of the topic.
- Cover only one topic in an e-mail. This makes the ‘trail’ clearer when others try to follow the evolving conversation (including responses).
- To protect the privacy of recipients, when you are sending to an ‘external’ group, put all the recipients’ addresses in BCC. This way others won’t be able to pick up a list of e-mail addresses. (Thus you are protecting their privacy.)
- However, where sending business or private messages, don’t try to be clever by copying another recipient using BCC. That is sneaky! Let the recipient see who has been copied on the message.
- Never provide e-mail addresses to others without first getting the approval of those whose contact details you are sharing.
- Use business language. Avoid SMS language, slang or language which seems unprofessional or could offend the recipient.
- Keep the message as short as possible and ‘to the point’. We don’t have time to read long messages. Many people read the messages on their phones where the screens are small and it is irritating when messages are long.
- Use a standard type of font (e.g. Arial) in a chosen size (e.g. 12) and use a single colour for all fonts.
- Punctuate correctly and use correct grammar.
- Make sure that you have used ‘spellcheck’ before sending.
- Consider layout carefully. Make the message easy to read.
- If your message needs a response, indicate by when you’d like the response. (Please reply by…..)
- Take care in wording the message as the tone and context can be easily mis-read or misunderstood.
- Reply to all messages from individuals so that they know you have received the message. It can be as simple as ‘Thank you for your message.’
- Where there is an attachment, mention this in the body of the message. In some cases people don’t notice that there is an attachment or they may be suspicious of attachments and not open them.
- Don’t send unnecessary e-mails.
- Copy only those who need to see that specific e-mail.
- Check your ‘signature’. Does it contain all the wording on your business card, including the e-mail address? Many people ‘copy and paste’ this information to insert into their ‘contacts’.
- Consider carefully whether you want logos and other images in the body of your e-mail. These may be rejected by recipients ‘servers’.
- Where you are sending a bulk message, consider whether there is more chance of your recipients receiving the message as an attachment, or in the body of the e-mail.
- Statistics show that the day on which bulk e-mails are most likely to be read by recipients is a Tuesday. So where possible, send on that day. Mondays people are starting a new week and don’t pay much attention to e-mails which they consider unnecessary. Towards the end of the week people are trying to complete their work before the weekend.
- Do not mark as urgent or set the ‘priority’ for your recipients. It is not polite to presume that your message is important for the person receiving the message.
- Do not send inappropriate content.
- E-mail sensitive or confidential information only after checking with recipients. (They may not wish to have it sent by e-mail, may want the document password protected, or sent to their private addresses.)
For more information on our communication skills workshops please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +27 33 3425432, Mobile: + 27 82 4993311.
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