Spring Cleaning: Check Your Office Email Etiquette
As professionals, we sometimes get lazy with our email etiquette at the workplace. Even worse, we often fall into O.C.D. – what I refer to as “Overly Comfortable Disorder.” Getting too casual with emails to your boss? Sending smiley faces in multiple emails per day? Forwarding on the daily chain email with cute pictures of kittens? We’re all guilty of not using the best office email etiquette 100% of the time – and that’s okay, because we’re human. However, it’s time to move forward and whip our business email communication back into shape. Even etiquette legend Emily Post would be proud.
Have you ever sent someone an email and felt like it was sucked into a giant black hole because you never heard back? Or, did a simple question take several days to get a response? Don’t be that person. Responding to emails ASAP – or within 24 hours of receiving them – is a good, professional standard to follow. Even if you can’t provide an answer right away, it’s polite etiquette to simply reply and let the sender know you’ve received their email and/or you’re working on the task at hand.
Tip: Consider providing a deadline of when you’ll get back to them.
Use Spellcheck, Double-Check and Borrow Some Fresh Eyes
It’s a sad fact: people will judge your intelligence (and possibly cringe) if your emails are full of grammatical errors and misspellings. They may even assume you’re careless and unprofessional for not checking your message before hitting send. You can avoid this by first using spellcheck, then reading through your message a few times to catch any errors. If you have an important email to send, it sometimes helps to have a trusted colleague review it first, then provide any feedback.
Tip: Write important emails in a separate, blank email first, then add in the recipients when it’s final. You don’t want to accidently send an email before it’s ready to go.
Practice Clear Email Subject Lines.
Your subject line is the first impression of your email. Does it clearly give an overview or directive as to what your email is trying to accomplish? Avoid vague subject lines, cutesy subject lines, confusing subject lines…you get the idea. Also, please, please do not start your email message in the subject line and continue it in the body of the email. That is just plain bizarre.
Find the Balance between Professional and Robotic.
When you’re fresh out of college and start your real job, you sink into the uncharted territories of political email communication. While you may mean to type/say one thing, it can come off completely wrong, thus offending a coworker (or worse, upper management). After this happens a few times, you quickly learn how to write politically savvy emails with choice words and phrases. Over time, it may feel like you’re on autopilot with phrases like, “best regards, at your earliest convenience, please find the file attached, it was my understanding.” Don’t turn into a robot. Define your professional email voice that is clear, yet also friendly and conversational.
- Avoid WRITING IN ALL CAPS, it comes off as yelling in an email
- Avoid joking or sarcasm unless you know the recipient very well; people cannot read your tone in an email
- Avoid blanket statements like “always” and “never”
- Avoid accusatory language like “you said this” or “you did that”
Respond Well to Controversial Emails
It’s Monday morning and you were just gifted with a rude, accusatory, demanding or controversial email. You know you need to respond, but you can feel the outrage building inside you. What do you do?
- Breathe, click out of the email, and do not respond
- Use the 24 hours or less time frame to cool down and think about your response (sleep on it if you must)
- With a renewed perspective, address the email concerns head-on, but with tact and professionalism
Bonus: You’ll be happy you did not respond emotionally, right away. Chances are, you’ll look calm and collected while Mr. Sender Offender looks like the bad guy (or gal).
Accept and Correct Your Imperfections Maybe you are seriously bad at forgetting to attach email attachments. Perhaps you’re known for CC-ing the world on your emails. Are your terrible at spelling? We all have email imperfections. The key is to understand what you’re bad at, accept it, then correct it.
Tip: Try attaching a bright sticky-note to the top of your computer as a reminder for yourself to attach the file, double-check if everyone copied on the email needs to be copied, use spellcheck, etc. Soon, these reminders will become a habit and you’ll be on your way to better email etiquette.
Now that you have our best office email advice, here’s another great resource. For more on-the-job etiquette, check out Emily Post Etipedia® for an entire collection of dos and don’ts, plus real answers to real situations.
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