Although the business letter is not quite dead, in many cases it has been replaced by the ubiquitous, instantaneous and ever efficient e-mail.
Your company and your clients might prefer to communicate entirely by e-mail. With the rise of people working from home, entire business transactions are conducted via e-mail -- many business people have never even met their clients!
I’m sure you won't be surprised to know that e-mail has its own etiquette rules, and that like everything else in the business world, there are dos and don'ts in writing appropriate and effective e-mail messages. Here are my 7 tips.
- Strive for two things in your e-mail communication: clarity, and conciseness. You may think that what you say is easy to understand, but sometimes words can be misconstrued. Present your ideas in a simple and straightforward manner. If you are presenting a lot of information, consider using bullet points.
- Don’t conduct an argument or any other type of critique or attack via e-mail. Don’t use antagonistic words, and check your attitude at the keyboard. If a problem exists between you and a coworker or client, resolve it either in person -- or, if that’s not possible, by phone.
- Be appropriate! There is no such thing as private e-mail -- not on a workplace computer. Even when a message is deleted, most software programs store messages on the hard drive. Consider what may happen if the message is read by someone else -- like the boss.
- CC Or Not To CC? Be judicious. The same goes for hitting “reply to all.” Send e-mails only to those who need them. We’re all busy and our inboxes are clogged enough as it is. You will annoy others and waste their time if you insist on keeping them posted on all kinds of things they don’t need to know.
- Don’t populate your e-mails with smiley or frowney faces. It looks unprofessional.
- Don’t use “text speak” either. U know what I’m talking about. IMHO that is never appropriate. You are assuming that the other person knows text lingo and finds it appropriate. They very well might not! I'm not LOL.
- Make good use of the “subject” line. Let the recipient know what kind of e-mail he or she is about to open. If you are responding to a client’s e-mail, the subject line will remain the same as whatever was originally sent. For example, if the subject line read, “Can you help me?” that isn't the e-mail thread to start a whole new conversation on a different topic, or add your invoice. Why? Because if either of you go looking for that new topic or invoice later, you’ll have to look through every communication to find it. If you are sending an invoice, “July’s invoice” is a great subject line. If you would like an appointment to pitch a new project, something about that request should be in the subject line.
Top notch business communication requires knowing the rules of the game. Any e-mail etiquette pet peeves that I’ve missed? Shoot me a comment! Or, better yet, e-mail me -- email@example.com.