How do you like your emails? I’m not looking for the ’shaken not stirred’ variety of responses. Understand that not all emails are created equal. Some emails are sphincter tightening experiences: you really don’t want to open them. Others you open without a moment’s hesitation. Here are a few tips to guide you through the correct email etiquette, so your emails get the attention they deserve.
1. Be crystal clear
The subject of your email should be crystal clear. Avoid writing ‘Urgent’ or ‘Read me’ in your subject line. Although you understandably believe that this is the way to ensure your extremely important emails get read (in other words, all your emails), it also communicates to the recipient that you have A) not considered their time, and B) you believe that your email is similarly urgent to them.
TIP: Make it clear what your email is about. If it is a speculative application for a job, say so. If it is a question, refer to the actual question. People are more likely to respond to your email if they know what it is about.
2. Think Before you CC
Beloved of micromanagers, the cc field is a source of considerable annoyance to most people. Perhaps you use the cc as a way of letting everyone know how busy you are; still, think twice about whether someone really needs to be included as a cc. Most people suffer from email overload, and the cc is a major contributor to their stress, particularly when no particular action is required of them.
TIP: Assuming you will keep a record of the email somewhere, consider only using the cc field for those who have asked you to do so.
3. Mind your Language
When addressing your recipient, use ‘Hi’ or ‘Dear’. The general convention is that if you have had sufficient contact with the recipient of your email, whether by phone or face-to-face, or if they are on the same job level, ‘Hi’ is perfectly acceptable. Otherwise, stick to ‘Dear’.
4. Be careful with auto responses
If you’re on holiday or away on business or even out to lunch, by all means let others know that you’ll respond to them on your return. But I once had a colleague who used auto responses for every single email she received, as a way of ‘buying herself time’. She no doubt thought she was being clever. The rest of us thought she was being condescending.
5. Use priority flags with discernment
In some countries, drivers toot their horn as a response to every minor traffic inconvenience. The result: horns just add to the general noise and serve no purpose. In other countries, horns are used as a warning. And in these circumstances, they work. Priority flags are similarly meant for certain circumstances: priorities. When they are overused, they are right up there with writing ’Urgent’ or ’Read me’ in the subject line of every message.
TIP: Every message you send cannot be a priority, so use priority flags for emails that are genuine priorities. This way, they are likely to be treated as such.
6. Sign off appropriately
According to email expert Dr Monica Seely, the best way to close your email is with a ‘Kind Regards’. Avoid colloquialisms such as ‘Cheers’ unless the recipient is a friend. Dr Seely also recommends not closing an email with ‘Thanks’. Emoticons and ‘text speak’ should also be off –limits when emailing in a professional capacity.
By observing these simple rules, you’ll stand a better chance of your emails being opened. If you have any other email etiquette suggestions, let me know in the comments box below.