By Anja van den Berg
Email etiquette mistakes in the workplace will probably not capsize your career, but it will cause confusion, delays, and even non-responses.
Mastering the unspoken rules of professional emails will affect how competent your colleagues perceive you. Well-crafted emails help you come across as capable and showcase your strong communicating skills.
Moreover, your colleagues are more likely to react because they expect your digital communication to be clear, concise and to the point.
Jeff Su, a specialist in practical career development and productivity, built an 8-step action plan to guide you into writing better emails at work. Start applying them today!
- Incorporate a call to action in the subject line
Include a clear call to action in the subject line. Tell the recipients exactly what you need them to do, and the estimated time it will take for them to do it. This very small trick gives them a lot more context. For example, instead of writing “Action required, feedback for project X,” write “Five minutes — survey feedback for project X”.
- One email thread per topic
Stick with one email thread for the same topic. Don’t send out separate emails for the same project if you have an update, a new idea or a follow-up question. The recipients won’t have the context of the original email thread for reference. Additionally, multiple new emails on the same topic just clog up their inboxes unnecessarily.
- Manage recipients
If you added or removed recipients in the email thread, include a brief explanation. You might have needed to involve a new role player for input or take someone out to spare their inbox. A professional and easy way to do this is to add a sentence at the very top of the email clearly showing who you added or removed. Add parentheses or italicise the font to separate the information from the actual email body.
- Start with the main point
Remember that emails aren’t supposed to be written the same way as letters to your family asking them for money! People tend to include a lot of information upfront to try and create context, only to include the point of the message at the very end of the email. Always have your main point first, followed by the context.
- Summarise in your reply
If you receive an email with a lot of disorganised content, summarise the sender’s main points for him in your reply. Take a few minutes to isolate and group common themes from his email and condense his message in a few sentences before responding. Not only does this help you confirm your understanding is correct, but the sender will also appreciate the extra effort you took to help him organise his thoughts.
- Hyperlink whenever possible
If you’re sharing a link over email, take an extra few seconds to hit Command K on Mac or Control K on Windows and hyperlink the external website or video. Your email will be cleaner and easier on the eye without a clunky link. It also decreases the chances of you making a mistake by adding an extra letter or deleting one in the original URL.
- Change default setting to “Reply” (not “Reply all”)
Change your default setting to “reply” instead of “reply all.” This approach will help you contain any damage that might occur if you send the email in a rush, and you’ve accidentally made a mistake in your message. It’s easier to contain the damage if the email was sent to one recipient instead of a whole bunch.
- Change “undo send” options
Don’t you hate that feeling of realising you’ve made an error a few seconds after you’ve hit the “send” button? Change the “undo send” option to 30 seconds, and you will have a time buffer to allow you to correct your mistakes.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2021/08/how-to-write-better-emails-at-work