While some of us grew up in the age of paper and pen messages, it has been at least 30 years since the invasion of emails as the common mode of written communication. Email now takes up a significant portion of our workday.
A study from Adobe Systems in 2016 suggests that the average worker spends around 30 hours a week checking email. Note that the 30 hours we are talking about here do NOT include the hours spent reading and answering the emails. That 30 hours goes into simply checking to see if there’s a new email.
While we try to work faster and more efficiently through the tons of email messages, we must not forget the social rules that accompany any form of communication. Here are 5 important tips (dos and don’ts of email etiquette) to writing your perfect email messages:
1. Do have a clear subject header/headline
Your subject header/headline should be clear and specific as most of us must compete with the hundreds of emails clogging our inbox every day. So, the clearer your subject header, the more likely your message will be read.
2. Do use a professional salutation
No matter how well you know the recipient, using “Hey,” “Yo,” or “Bro” isn’t professional. Use “Hi” or “Hello” instead. And to be more formal, use “Dear (insert name).” Using the person’s name in the salutation, “Hello Chantelle”, is quite appropriate, but remember not to shorten a person's name unless you're given consent to do so.
3. Don't assume the recipient knows what you are talking about
Create your message as a stand-alone note, even if it is in response to a chain of emails. This means no “one-liners.” Include the subject and any references to previous emails, research or conversations. It can be frustrating and time-consuming to look back at the chain to brush up on the context. Your recipient may have hundreds of emails coming in each day and likely won’t remember the chain of events leading up to your email.
4. Do proofread your message
Don't be surprised if you're judged by the way you compose an email. For example, if your email is littered with misspelled words and grammatical errors, you may be perceived as sloppy, careless, or even uneducated. Check your spelling, grammar, and message before hitting “send.” Never send an angry email, or give a quick, flip response. Give your message some thoughtful consideration before sending it. If you feel angry, put your message into the “drafts” folder, and review it again later when you are calmer and have time to formulate an appropriate response.
5. Do keep private material confidential
If you must share highly personal or confidential information, do so in person or over the phone. Especially with the enactment of the Personal Data Protection Act, you must be wary to have the proper encryption of data when sending information that may be sensitive. Always ask permission before posting sensitive material either in the body of the email or in an attachment.
While it may take some practice to keep your emails professional and to the point, you will look more polished and organized in the long run.