One of the most popular questions we receive from both our clients and in our “Ask GWA” inbox is what is the proper way to use business email communications. While social media and texting have increased in use drastically over the last decade, email is still considered the most important communications tool in the business world.
Here are some tips on making better use of your email:
- Write effective subject lines: Most readers decide whether or not they will open an email message based on what the subject line says. Write short, catchy and informative subject lines to get attention.
- Write greetings and closings: Always begin and end your messages with courtesy. You never want to leave an impression that you are being abrupt or unfriendly. Saying “Thank You” or “Sincerely” can go a long way.
- Use appropriate formal language and avoid colloquialisms, idioms and double entendres: It’s a given that you should not use profanity in a business email, but you also have to be careful about language used figuratively. Always use literal meanings, especially when communicating with international readers, because certain phrases and words can have a different meaning within a different cultural context.
- Spell check and use complete sentences: Spell check is your friend; use it at all times if you want to be taken seriously. And just because you use abbreviations and emoticons in your text messages, doesn’t mean you can do the same with email.
- Always reply to someone else’s email: Everyone gets busy sometimes, but you should always respond back in a timely manner. Not responding can reflect poorly on your professionalism.
- Get to the point: Yes, you can write longer, more complete messages in an email than in a text message or Twitter, but you still need to keep your message short and to the point. Otherwise, not many people will want to read your emails.
- Don’t spam: Don’t send unsolicited emails, unless there is an option to unsubscribe. Also, only use the “Reply To All” option when it is necessary to include a certain number of readers.
- Email is not private: Although in most countries it is actually illegal to forward someone else’s email, it does happen regularly, whether intentionally or not. So you should assume that when you click the send button, the email could be seen by more people than you intended.
- Take your business seriously: Always keep your email messages professional, no matter how angry or irritated you are feeling. You never know how recipients will react and if that can cost you business.
- Use “old-fashioned” communications: When in doubt about an email being misunderstood, the best thing to do is to pick up the phone and call the recipient. Sometimes a phone call can alleviate a lot of heartache!