How many emails did you write today? Over 50? Over 100? For assistants, emails make the world go around. Despite daily use of millions of texts, WhatsApps and instant messages, email remains the most important communication tool used in business.
I still love emails. I like to have everything in writing so I can track it. I file important emails electronically and this has helped me many a time when I’ve needed to find crucial information (or sometime just to prove I’m right about something).
Of course, there are the occasions when you login to your inbox and find 30 emails about one subject – I refer to them as the dreaded “reply all” emails. Emails can be overused and just clog up inboxes.
So how does one use email effectively at work, communicating with clarity and sufficient etiquette? Here are my top tips – feel free to comment and add your own.
Appropriate open and close
- Clearly, when you are writing an email, you are representing your organisation. It is important to keep the recipient in mind and tailor your email appropriately. Open with an appropriate greeting (Dear all, Good Morning, Dear XX or just open with the recipient’s name) and close the email properly (Kind regards, Best wishes).
- The tone of the email will depend on how well you know the recipient. If you don’t know them, it’s always best to keep it professional. Save the “Hi” until you have emailed them a couple of times. You’ll know when it’s appropriate to relax the formalities.
Stand out in a crowded inbox
- In a heavy inbox, make sure your email is noticed by always including a concise subject that clearly states the purpose of the email.
- If there is specific information you wish to relay, such as a date/time of a meeting, highlight this in bold so it doesn’t get lost in the email.
Be clear and concise
- Nobody likes email novels. It’s a good idea to clarify the purpose of the email in the first paragraph. What information do you want to relay or ask for? Could you potentially use a bulleted list to save long paragraphs?
- If it is your first email, explain briefly who you are and where you got their details (e.g. My colleague XX provided me with your contact details in relation to booking accommodation, or “Further to your recent discussions with XX, I am writing to arrange a follow-up meeting”).
- If you are replying to someone, have a good read through their email first. What are they actually asking you and have you answered their query? This saves emails bouncing backwards and forwards in a chat. Have you explained yourself clearly so that they don’t have to ask follow-up questions?
No ‘text speak’
- “Thx, see u 2moro”… nooooo! Text speak is for text messages if that’s your thing. Always write in full sentences and use correct punctuation and grammar.
Check before you send
- It’s all too easy to quickly type out an email and hit send without reading it. Take a minute to read it through. Before clicking ‘send’, check your email is addressed to the right person.
- Set the spellcheck so you catch the obvious spelling gaffes. Spellcheck, for example, never picks up “fro” instead of “for” (I really hate that one). Or, in my case, it autocorrects all my UK spellings to US spellings (organised here in England, not organized).
- Are you sending something with your email? Check the attachment – check that it opens, check that it’s the right attachment and check that you’ve actually remembered to attach it. I once had to send out an email 3 times because I’d forgotten to attach my agenda, and then attached the wrong one. It was utterly cringe-worthy and I didn’t do it again!
- If your message is to a group? Before you hit “reply all”, think whether you need to address the email to everyone or just specific readers. It saves clogging up inboxes with emails they don’t need to read.
- If you are going to address a different topic, before you hit reply, change the email subject and delete the old thread.
Keep it professional
- Always remember, whatever you put in writing can be forwarded on to someone else. Never write anything too personal, be rude about someone else or write someone you wouldn’t be comfortable having someone else read. How would you feel if your email ever ended up in a newspaper? A good IT team can track emails back going back years. Keep it professional and keep it clean!