Email is an essential business tool and like any tool, if it’s used correctly, is very effective. However, it has the potential to turn off possible customers and be career limiting if used unwisely. When writing a business email, keep in mind that you aren’t writing to a friend or family member so the tone must reflect professionalism.
Use the highest level of formality. If you don’t have an established rapport, use “Dear Susan” or “Dear Ms. Smith”. If you do have a rapport, use “Hello Robert” or “Hi Gail”. Avoid “Hey” or “Yo” for obvious reasons.
Have a clear subject line. Think of newspapers. They write provocative headlines to entice you to read the article. Look at the subject line in the same way. The person receiving your email likely receives dozens maybe hundreds of emails a day. You want your email to stand out so he/she will open it.
Read the email out loud. How is the tone? Does it sound pleasant or annoyed? Are you trying to be humorous? Be careful. It’s difficult to convey humor well in the written word unless you can channel PG Wodehouse!!
One topic per email. The body of the email should reflect the same topic as in the subject line. And if the topic changes in an email chain, change the subject line to reflect this.
Be aware of the “To” line. Check that you have the correct email address(es). Don’t inadvertently send an email to the wrong person especially if there is sensitive information included.
Complete contact information. In closing, have your complete contact information within the signature. Your customers shouldn’t have to search to find you. And they won’t try either if it’s too difficult.
Respond promptly. Within 24 hours respond to someone’s email even if you need time to answer their question. Letting them know that you have received their request and will answer soon is showing respect.
Watch the “Reply All”; “BCC”. With “Reply All”, ask yourself, “Does everyone have to know my response or just the person who sent the original email?” Using “BCC” indiscriminately can be perceived as being underhanded and dishonest. However, the BCC function is fine for a mass email to a group so that each recipient doesn’t see the email of the others for privacy sake.
Watch your emotions. Never reply to an email when you’re upset by the content. Give yourself plenty of time to calm down before crafting a good response. Have a trusted friend read the email before you send it. Ask for their feedback as to the tone.
Email is public. You have no control over what someone will do with your email in terms of forwarding to others. Emails can be subpoenaed in court as evidence. Always keep that in mind every time you hit the SEND button.
Don’t forget that formatting the email is just as important, too.
NEVER USE ALL CAPITALS. You appear to be shouting!!! And that’s RUDE!!
Refrain from fancy fonts. They are difficult to read. Arial, New Times Roman or Calibri are perfect for business emails. The same goes for being too polychromatic. Black or dark blue are the easiest to decipher.
No emoticons or text acronyms. Consider the tone of the email. Do happy faces or LOL reflect a professional image? Keep the tone business-like even if you know the person well.
Avoid tense text. Paragraphs are hard to read and the person will likely think, “I’ll look at this later when I have time”. But realistically, they won’t have time. So remember to have lots of white space; use bullets for the key points. If you find that the email is becoming a treatise, consider picking up the phone and making a call, instead.
Spelling, punctuation & grammar must be perfect. If it’s not, then the perception is that you aren’t into the details. This could have a negative impact on your future success.
Keep these tips in mind and your future emails will always reflect your best professional image.