Like it or not, email is here to stay. When your message must be absolutely clear and defensible, composing and sending a carefully crafted letter in the postal mail may be appropriate. But your customers, vendors, and employees most likely prefer the convenience and efficiency of email. It’s fast, easy, and often doesn’t require much deliberation.
Unfortunately, the expediency of email can be one of its greatest pitfalls. After all, business communication, whether typewritten on fine paper or shared electronically, reflects on your company and your staff. Each email has the potential to enhance or degrade your firm’s reputation. Here are simple rules of email etiquette that can help keep your digital communication from giving a bad impression.
- Make the subject clear. Every day, email recipients wade through bulging inboxes. Your message may get lost in the shuffle if the subject line is vague or generic. For example, instead of typing “vendor issue” in the subject line, write “ABC Company invoice number 1255 needs attention.”
- Get to the point. Busy people generally have no time to read five paragraphs before the real message emerges. Keep your email short and simple. Describe the action you’d like the reader to take or the information you’d like to convey in the first sentence or two.
- Proofread before sending. What impression do you think the recipient will form if your email is replete with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and poorly worded sentences? To avoid creating a negative image, take a few minutes to fix these problems before hitting “send.” If the email contains sensitive information or the recipient is an especially important customer or client, ask a coworker to read through the message first.
- Take a deep breath. When an obnoxious email pushes your emotional buttons, resist the temptation to fire back in anger or frustration. Slow down. Put your draft reply in a separate folder. Revisit your response when your emotions have cooled off. You’ll be glad you did.
- Keep private matters private. You’ve no doubt heard about a highly sensitive business deal or a stellar reputation that was ruined because a careless worker or manager sent an incautious email. When your text contains private or potentially confidential information, take care. If a sensitive message must be communicated right away, pick up the phone or schedule a face-to-face meeting.