Email has replaced just about every other type of communication for daily business discussion, whether trivial or critical. It saves paper, saves time, and gives you a point to reference later on, should you need to revisit a conversation. The ability to go back and reference prior email communications alone makes them highly valuable.
Electronic communication is subject to the same considerations all communication is, however; familiarity breeds informality. How many times have you gotten an email with no preamble or salutation and thought “that feels a bit rude”? Or perhaps you’ve had a superior scold you for being too informal yourself.
Using email doesn’t need to be as formal as writing a letter or penning a white paper, but where do you draw the line? Let’s look at some tips to make sure your email etiquette is clear, confident, formal-but-not-too-much, and reflective of who you are as a business professional.
When first sending an email to a person, unless you know them extremely well, it’s important to open with a salutation. Nobody needs to have “dear whomever” at the start of an email, but a “good morning” or “hello” is not different than how you’d greet a person on the street.
You should always open with a salutation, but once an email chain has been established, it’s okay to drop the formality. For instance, if you’re working on a project with your supervisor and you have to ask a question, lead with the “hello” but subsequent emails can be treated like a discussion. You wouldn’t throw a “good morning” between separate thoughts, so you needn’t do it here, either.
You shouldn’t be using contractions for formal writing that addresses groups of people you don’t know personally. In your office, that type of informal writing is fine, but if you’re sending out a company-wide email, write out the full phrase.
The same goes for slang and heaven-forbid, text speak. The first thing someone will do if you ask “how R U doing” is to close your email and open LinkdenIn to find a replacement.
And it should go without saying, but you should always have your spell-check on.
As we spoke about earlier, if you ever want a living archive of a discussion, email is your friend. With that said, however, remember that if you’re discussing something sensitive, be mindful that your discussion is a matter of record and should be extremely formal, with confidentiality intact. Using a secure email is a good way to protect sensitive names and data.
Like a salutation, a solid, comfortable ending is a great bottom frame to your emails. Something as simple as “be well” or “thanks” is perfectly fine for 99% of all email communications. For a person who provides a service a good ending is “please let me know if you have any questions”.
The main point is to never simply leave your email hanging. Close it up and add your signature.
Remember to treat your emails like you were meeting someone in real life; introduce yourself, don’t speak informally, and be clear in your writing. Remember that emails are likely forever, and can be recalled if necessary which can both help and hurt you, so choose your words wisely. Be succinct, friendly, and semi-formal and your emails can portray a confident, business-savvy person when you reach out to others.