1. Don't Over-Communicate by Email.
As we have already noted, a big source of stress for people, especially at work, is the sheer volume of emails they receive. So, before you begin writing an email, ask yourself: "Is this really necessary?” Sometimes, it is better to speak directly to the person by phone or in person.
Email is not as secure as you might want it to be, particularly as people may forward emails without thinking to delete the conversation history. So avoid sharing sensitive or personal information in an email, and don't write about anything that you, or the subject of your email, wouldn't like to see plastered on a billboard by your office. Also, work email accounts are the employer’s property.
Whenever possible, deliver bad news in person. This helps you to communicate with empathy, compassion, and understanding, and to make amends if your message has been taken the wrong way.
Remember the protocal in regards to whose email address to put where:
- TO: only send to the person who is to take action on your email.
- CC: (courtesy copy) is simply 'for your interest'. No is response required. It's for their reference only. A person can read, delete or file the email.
- BCC: (blind copy) is for use when sending an email to a private distribution list.
2. Make Good Use of Subject Lines.
A newspaper headline has two functions: it grabs your attention and it summarises the article, so that you can decide whether to read it or not. The subject line of your email message should do the same thing. Use an informative Subject Line - referring to a project, action, or important date. A blank subject line is likely to be overlooked or rejected as “spam”. Use few well-chosen words to tell recipient what email is about.
A well-written subject line delivers most important information without the recipient having to open the email. It also serves as prompt that reminds recipients every time they glance at their inbox.
3. Keep Email Messages Clear and Brief.
Keep your sentences short and to the point. The body of each email should be direct and informative plus contain all the pertinent information. Email is free, so send a separate email for each topic. Ideally, limit emails to one subject. Keep it to one screen (1-2 paragraphs). Avoid long drawn out emails. Short and simple is better. Combine several, related points into one email. Use bullet points or numbers. Most importantly, be clear on what action orresponse you want.
4. Be Polite and Check Your Tone.
Emails are less formal than traditional letters but your messages reflect you (your values, professionalism, and attention to detail). Recipients may decide to print emails and share them with others, so always be polite.
When we meet people face-to-face, we use the other person's body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions to assess how they feel. Email robs us of this information, and this means that we can't tell when people have misunderstood our messages. Your choice of words, sentence length, punctuation, and capitalisation can easily be misinterpreted without visual and auditory cues. Think about how your email "feels" emotionally. If your intentions or emotions could be misunderstood, find a less ambiguous way to phrase your words. Without empathy, misunderstanding often results.
Finally, before you hit "send," take a moment to review your email for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Your email messages are as much a part of your reputation and rapport as the clothes you wear (hopefully, you look in the mirror before you head out the door each morning!), so it looks bad to send out a message that contains typos. As you proofread, pay careful attention to the length of your email. People are more likely to read short, concise emails than long, rambling ones, so make sure that your emails are as short as possible, without excluding necessary information.
Next: Managing Email Effectively.