Emails remain a prime means of communication at most companies; make sure yours are beyond reproach!
Some claim that email communication is dead, or even “unhip,” but the truth is that the old-fashioned, everyday email is not going away anytime soon. It’s too convenient and too well-established.
It therefore behooves all of us to consider the impression our emails make. Sure, you know the perils of “reply all,” and know never to use all caps, fun fonts or animated smiley faces. But here are some finer points you may not have considered.
Respond quickly, even when you don’t know the answer. If someone has emailed you with an important or time-sensitive question, don’t wait to reply until you have figured out the answer. That someone doesn’t even know if you’ve received the query! Shooting back a quick response saying “Working on it” will put that person’s mind at ease and prevent repeat requests.
Change subject lines when the subjects change. Some email threads go on forever, often morphing into other topics. A message tagged “June sales conference” that evolves to a discussion about vacation policy is confusing and makes it hard for people to organize their inboxes. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of subjects — please do write specific, descriptive ones (not just “Question” or “Meeting” or, even worse, “Urgent”).
If you put key information in the subject line, like the date of a meeting, consider repeating that info in the body of the email. Many people barely glance at subject lines. Maybe it shouldn’t be this way, but it is.
Use bulleted or numbered lists for messages with multiple points. No one likes wading through long, dense paragraphs. Make it easy for people to absorb and respond to your communication. If possible, arrange lists in order of priority, chronologically, whatever makes sense. You may also want to consider using one email per topic.
Adhere to your company’s email “culture.” You may think it’s a waste of time to use salutations (“Dear Jane”), but if that is the norm at your place of employment, then do go ahead and comply. Same goes for opting for a face-to-face talk instead of an email — some companies encourage just getting up and going to speak with your colleagues, in real life.
Talk about hip!
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.