Navigating Email Etiquette at Work

Navigating Email Etiquette at Work
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Updated on 3 March 2015

Even though email takes up well over a quarter of the average working person’s day, many people still don’t have a knack for email etiquette. Often, the issue lies in separating personal email preferences from professional communication policies. Follow these tips for maintaining email etiquette at work, and you’ll develop a more effective communication strategy in no time.

Use a Clear Subject Line

The subject line of your email is your first and only chance to make a good impression on your recipient. When you draw your subject out into a rambling prologue, you’ll give the recipient the sense that your message is similarly lengthy and poorly structured. When you opt for short, single word subject lines, however, you run the risk of being too vague and not offering enough information.

In a professional setting, it’s best to keep your subject lines clear and concise. Tell your recipients what they can expect to read in your email without crossing the line into needless detail or flowery language.

CC or BCC for Organization and Confidentiality

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Carbon copy (CC) and blind carbon copy (BCC) features offer helpful options for keeping your emails organized and confidential. Though you often carry on email-based conversations with a few key coworkers, you may find that you need to bring other colleagues into the picture, too. Opt for CC when including a colleague on an email for informational purposes only, with no expectation of a reply.

Since a BCC essentially makes its recipient’s email address invisible to everyone except the sender and the BCC recipient, this feature is best used for confidentiality purposes. When you need to include a colleague or a client in a conversation without alerting the other “To” recipients, opt for BCC. This feature is also helpful when emailing a list of business contacts whose email addresses must remain confidential.

Reply as Quickly as Possible

Have you ever read an email and set it aside, only to reply a week or more later? Always reply to emails as quickly as you can, and never make your recipient wait for a reply for more than 48 hours. Remember that time is money, so when you delay your replies, you’re only costing yourself and your recipient.

Choose Appropriate Language

As a general rule, your professional emails should not read the same way that your personal ones do. In professional emails, avoid trendy language, overly casual phrases, and emoticons.

Don’t take it so far, however, that your messages come across as stuffy or too lofty. Also, when you choose your wording, consider your office culture. If your coworkers keep things casual, you can probably feel free to tone down your overly professional email.

Choose an Appropriate Signoff

Email users and experts eternally debate about the best words and phrases to use when closing an email. A friendly “cheers” may work in personal emails, but it comes across as too casual in most professional settings. Signing off with a simple “thanks” may work in many situations, but it’s not suitable when your message doesn’t actually suggest gratitude. Make sure your signoff fits the occasion, given your message and your audience.

Call When Necessary

Sometimes email just isn’t the right mode of communication, and it’s best to tackle the business at hand with a phone call or an in-person meeting instead. When your communication gets too complex or personal, eliminating email may be helpful.

This rule of thumb is particularly true when issues with coworkers arise. Since miscommunication can happen with email despite your best efforts, know when to take your conversations offline.

Maintaining email etiquette at work can mean the difference between miscommunicating and getting the job done efficiently. What’s your email pet peeve?”

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