Even with text, phone call, and video chat options, email still dominates online communication. Americans on average spent over 5 hours checking their email this year, and that number may increase with the rising popularity of remote work. With email being the top workplace communication method, it’s important to keep your writing professional. While there isn’t a rulebook governing professional email etiquette, these unspoken guidelines can make or break the next email you send.
1. Keep the message short and sweet.
Long paragraphs are unpleasant to read, and risk being ignored all together. Important information may also get lost in the middle of a lengthy chunk of text. Research says that an effective email is under 200 words. Focus on one key point to keep your email concise. If you’re still struggling to keep the message short, replace wordy phrases with shorter ones or remove the phrase completely. Ensure that your email gets seen by writing a short and specific subject line.
2. Avoid Humor.
Remember the last time you sent that funny text to your friend only for it to receive no response? It may be because humor can be misinterpreted in writing. If a joke falls flat, it may make you appear immature or not serious about the conversation. The tone of your writing should remain professional, especially if you are inquiring about a potential job opportunity.
3. Ditch Emojis and Slang
Online messaging has allowed people to communicate in more creative ways than ever, but that doesn’t mean you should email your boss a frowny face when you can’t make it to work. Like humor, emojis and slang can be difficult to comprehend, which decreases the clarity of your message. More importantly, emojis and slang are not appropriate in a business setting and can hurt your credibility.
4. Include more than your name in your signature.
One of the main reasons for sending an email is to foster a response from the recipient, so your contact information should be readily available to them. Think of your signature like a business card; it should include your name, phone number, website, and other relevant contact information. In addition to a signature block, consider introducing yourself in the beginning of the email if it is the first time you are contacting the recipient.
5. Proofread more than once.
It’s tempting to press ‘send’ on a short email without thinking, but one small typo can make a large impression on your professional reputation. Your email should be proofread for errors the way you would proofread your resume or cover letter. A good practice is to write your email before adding a recipient to avoid sending an unfinished email and to ensure you’re sending the message to the right person.
6. Be polite.
Every email you send should respect the recipient’s time and attention. Reply to emails within 24 hours; if you don’t have an answer to their email within that time frame, send one letting the recipient know when you can reply. Avoid sending emails on weekends and late at night (most email clients allow you to schedule an email to go out at a better time). The best time to send a business email is during standard work hours. Polite language can also go a long way. Use kind greetings and closings; a simple “hello” and “thank you” work well.
Whether you’re writing to your colleague, boss, or potential employer, keep these rules in mind when writing your next business email to maintain your professionalism.