Impress your bosses and co-workers — and make friends in the workplace — by using good email etiquette. Here's how to break those annoying email habits that are unwelcome pretty much everywhere.
Email communication has become, for better or for worse, the default for most businesses today. It’s fast, convenient, inexpensive and familiar. It has also introduced a whole new way for people to be annoying (or to become annoyed).
First and foremost, it’s important to adhere to whatever email norms your workplace has. For example, if everyone uses a salutation (“Dear Fred”), then do likewise, even though it may seem unnecessary. If most people reply to emails within 24 hours, then you should adopt this practice as well.
Which brings us to the no-nos — those email habits that are unwelcome pretty much everywhere. For example:
Vague (or no) subject lines. Most people get masses of email; make it easier for them to sort through the deluge by saying something more specific than “question,” “action item,” “read me” or <blank>.
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Inappropriate creativity. Fun fonts, animated smiley faces, signature lines with inspirational quotes, ALL CAPS (or, just as bad, no caps at all) and flowery borders do — as you might think — call attention to your message. But not in a good way.
Dense writing, dense paragraphs. Most people skim their emails, so use short sentences and get to the point quickly. If you are requesting something, start with that, or put it in a paragraph all by itself. If you have multiple points, number or bullet them.
Reusing an old email chain. It makes sense to keep all the correspondence about a particular discussion under one thread. But when the subject changes, or a new issue crops up, be the one to start a new email subject line.
Requesting read receipts. You might think that read receipts appear efficient or businesslike, but they actually make it look as if you don’t trust your correspondent to respond to you. There’s just something rankling about being asked to “prove” that you received a message.
Marking all of your emails “urgent.” No one is going to believe that every single one of your emails is top priority. Plus, of course, when you do send a truly time-sensitive email, no one will pay the slightest bit of attention to it. (Related to this is the multiple use of exclamation points. One per message is more than enough!)
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.