How many times have you received one-word responses to a detailed email? How many times have you been irritated by a sloppy email written in all caps?
While our communication methods are changing in lock step with technology, the need for professional etiquette remains. Professionally written emails convey respect for the recipient, reduce confusion and make email chains more comprehensible for later audiences.
Today, we will be looking at five traits of professional emails. While you may make mistakes in your communications (this is completely normal) striving to meet these traits will help you communicate effectively.
A professional email should be:
Whether it is a giant block of text or a sentence fragment, poorly written emails haunt business communications. As colleagues get busier and more comfortable with one another, professional emails slip into text message-style conversations.
These conversations lack the clarity and readability of professional emails. Both the immediate recipient and later readers may find it frustrating to decipher a stream of consciousness response that is plagued with errors.
When writing or responding to emails, take the time to organize your information into clear and concise paragraphs. If necessary, use headings to respond to multiple questions and use bullet points to communicate things like itemized instructions or requirements.
We have previously touched on consistency when we discussed creating an email series. If you are sending out a recurring email (a weekly progress report, for example) make sure readers know where to look. Ensure the sections of your email have bolded headings and are ordered as they were in previous emails.
If you must rearrange your information in your current email, that is fine. Just make sure you are not reordering the information layout with every new email.
Extend clarity and consistency to your subject line, as well. Emails are often reviewed several times after they are initially received. As such, make sure they are easy to find in your inbox. A well-made subject line should
- reflect the contents of the email
- be consistent with previous emails (if it is a part of an email series)
- be as concise as possible
Avoid cramming the contents of an email into the subject line. This cramming is tempting for brief messages, but it results in bloated subject lines.
Easy on the eyes
Having a garish typeface or font colour can turn your email into a chore for the reader. Make sure that the effort you put into crafting a professional email is not undercut by poorly selected text.
Calibri, Times New Roman or Arial are ideal typefaces. You should keep the text black and the font size around the standard 12-point.
You can never control when your recipient will read your email. Unlike a face-to-face conversation where you can gauge someone’s reactions, your email message is a stand-alone piece of communication. The last thing you want is for a message you sent in haste to be interpreted as hostile or dismissive.
To reduce the risk of these simple miscommunications, write each email as if it were a customer inquiry. Be courteous and genuine in your communication. Review your email and try to put yourself in the shoes of your recipient.
As stated before, your email does not have to be perfect. What you are aiming for is an email that conveys your message while showing your recipient both courtesy and respect.