With working from home as the new norm and office culture nearly nonexistent, email etiquette has become more important than ever. In a world gone remote, who you are as a professional is seen through your emails. Unlike Instagram DMs, you can't unsend an email — so be careful if you accidentally click reply all on a company-wide note.
As many office workers communicating over email more than ever, the approach and language are even more impactful. I spoke to Global Human Resource Executive Maria Neve, who is also Founder & Transformation Coach at Fearlesshe, to discuss ways to elevate your email game.
“How many times have you read an email and shouted at the screen or rolled your eyes or ignored the email?” Neve asks. “Getting your email not only read, yet also ‘felt’ with a positive impact is a skill to practice.”
Stay away from using ‘unprecedented times’.
If you think writing ‘unprecedented times’ will capture their attention, think again. “We all know. We don’t need reminding; in fact we want to get out of it as quickly as possible. This adds nothing but pain triggers to the receiver,” Neve adds. The first line of an email hooks someone in, so be original and make it personal.
Match their style.
“If the sender is brief in their emails, be brief and to the point in yours. If they keep it direct and focused on business, keep it direct and business focused. If they ask about your family, ask about theirs too,” she explains. This tactic will be sure to help with your business needs in whatever task you’re looking to complete from new business or day-to-day action items.
The subject line should have a clear and meaningful purpose.
Before you even get to the body of the message, the subject line should quickly state the purpose of the email. “It’s the first thing they see,” Neve says. “It can mean the difference between your email being read and being left in the mix of ‘forgotten/not responded’ emails.” Without even opening the email, the recipient should already know how to prioritize your message above others in their inbox.
Be conscious of your language.
“Use neutral words to avoid tone being misread. Also avoid limiting words (But, should, try, don’t/can’t, why) and get conscious of words and phrases that have biased/gendered/racist/homophobic/and any discriminatory roots,” she cautions. Sometimes even the slightest words can change the entire message, so it’s important to be cognizant of vocabulary that will benefit you, not hurt you.
Leave ‘Best’, ‘Take Care’ and ‘Kind Regards’ in 2020.
While these all have good intentions, they're bland and overdone words that can come off as impersonal. “Just as first impressions matter, so do last. Find a way to close that matches the email content, personalize it. If you’re not sure, I always say end everything with gratitude. A simple thank you neurologically creates a more positive reaction in the brain of the sender and the receiver of the email.”
Keep it professional.
This isn’t a group text with your besties. Whatever you’re putting in writing on your professional email system, it’s always safe to keep it professional. Refrain from using texting staples such as ‘LOL, lmao, LMK, haha and xoxo’. Neve adds, “Even if you feel you have a personal connection, keep your written communication respectful, focused on the purpose of the email and matched to the style of your sender.”
Don’t miss an opportunity with your email signature.
The email signature is one of the most important parts of your email, “your signature is a virtual representation of you,” Neve states. “How do you want to be remembered? Even if you have a company style you are required to stick to, can you add in a quote or a hyperlink to your latest (professional) blog.”
Remember that your email is for headline communication and sharing information.
“It is not a place to tell stories, long essays and vent your frustrations. There are other groups and places for that. Good email practice can literally mean the difference between being ‘virtually seen’ and your message being moved to junk,” she explains. Always keep in mind what you're trying to accomplish with your messages.
Sarcasm and secrets do not belong in emails.
“Yes, really. Keep these for your friends or your journal,” Neve says. "It’s not worth including a potential chuckle that could be seen in the wrong light and create an unnecessary issue for yourself. And it doesn’t matter who you’re emailing, secrets do not belong in emails. Don’t send anything that you wouldn’t want the entire office knowing because mistakes happen and you never know."
No matter what you do for a living, if you’re a junior team member or an executive, these tips can help you succeed in your field. It’s all about clear communication.
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