By: Lizzie Hawkins
In today’s digital age, business communication thrives on email to distribute information and conversations internally and externally. According to a survey conducted by The Washington Post, employees spend an average of 4.1 hours a day on their work email. That means, over the course of their career, workers will devote 47,000 hours to their inbox. With email playing an integral role in today’s communications, it is crucial that businesses and individuals know the proper etiquette to craft a professional email.
“With email playing an integral role in today’s communications, it is crucial that businesses and individuals know the proper etiquette in crafting a professional email“
Where to Start
Address, subject line and salutation
It is extremely important that you use a professional email address when you engage in a professional email conversation. Say goodbye to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email address is the first thing clients, coworkers, businesses and potential employers see and is a direct reflection of who you are as a person. You should create an address that includes either your company’s name or your own name. Another tip, if you are using AOL for your mail service, you should switch to a more current mail service such as Gmail or Yahoo. Google Trends shows that AOL mail has not been relevant for over five years. Using this service indicates that you created the email a long time ago and are not very tech savvy.
The next thing email recipients look at is the subject line. Often, people will decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line. It should be clear and direct. When you craft your subject line, think about why it is important for them to read what you have to say. If it is too long, unclear and/or confusing they probably won’t open it. Some good subject line examples include “Suggestions For Proposal,” “Job Application: Social Media Assistant” and “Conference Date Changed.” Short and specific is the way to go!
Your greeting can be done in many ways. It is important that you understand who your audience is and what greeting is most appropriate for them. Your salutation will set the tone for the rest of the email. To be successful, Grammarly recommends that you use one of the greetings listed below.
- Hi [name]
- Dear [name]
- Hello [name]
- Hi there
- Hi everyone
Each salutation maintains a level of professionalism and respect for the person(s) you address. Avoid using salutations like “To whom it may concern” and “Hey [nickname],” they tend to come off as unimportant or disrespectful.
The Meat & Potatoes
Concise content, audience awareness and things to avoid
While all of the other components of your email are important, the body of your email is the most significant. Your body content should be similar to your subject line, clear, concise and to the point. Include the most important pieces of information at the top and make sure to include a call to action or follow-up statement at the end. Bold sections or use bullet points to direct attention to the parts you want your recipient to pay most attention to.
When you craft your email, be aware of your recipient’s cultural customs. Every culture is different. Although it may make sense to you, it may not make sense to them. Do a little research ahead of time to ensure that your tone and verbage are appropriate for the recipient.
A few things to avoid in email are humor and overuse of punctuation marks. When you communicate via the internet, there is much more room for misinterpretation. Email conversations lack facial expressions and body gestures that help illustrate the tone and meaning of your words. Humor can be taken as offensive, inappropriate or simply not humorous to the recipient. Similarly, punctuation marks, like exclamation points, are used to add emotion but can come across as overly excited or rather aggressive. To maintain a clean and concise message, keep tone setters to a minimum.
Before You Hit Send
Tone, proofread and signature block
Once you’ve completed the necessary email requirements and composed your email, you may be eager to hit send. Wait! Before you send your message that can never be truly erased, you want to make sure the tone of your email is appropriate and you’ve proofread every inch. I don’t know how many times I’ve reread my email drafts and found many errors that weren’t noticeable before. If you have the time, walk away from your email draft for at least a minute and then go back and read through it. This allows you to catch possible grammar or spelling errors you missed and gives you an opportunity to review the tone of your message. Other quick proofreading tools you can use are Microsoft Word or Grammarly. Both programs will check and notify you with any grammar or spelling errors you might have missed.
Email is tricky. It may not seem like there is a whole lot of structure behind it, but there are so many necessary components if you want to come across as professional. Hopefully you can apply some of these tips when you craft your next email!