Like it or not, e-mail is and will continue to form our primary tool of communication. Well, at least when it comes to business correspondence. It doesn’t matter how social the Internet is becoming, it is very unlikely for an alternative communication tool to surface anytime in the near future.
Being the important communication tool that it is – and one that we use day in day out – there are some protocols and etiquette that improve the effectiveness of your e-mails when observed.
Start your e-mail message with a proper and polite greeting line
There’s a reason it’s called greeting line. As such, starting your e-mail with the recipients first name is not really proper. After all, when you meet someone in person, you don’t greet them by calling out their first name.
Keep it short and simple
Ideally, the message you are about to type should fit entirely in the preview pane. People stopped opening messages years ago. Scrolling down is also not something people enjoy. If it doesn’t fit in the preview pane, it’s too long and you may want to consider attaching a report instead.
Don’t go ballistic in sending your e-mail to everyone you can think of
If you want people to keep taking your e-mails serious and read them, don’t send stuff to people that don’t really need to be involved.
Use the BCC field
There are two primary reasons for having this option in every e-mail client; either to hide recipients from others, or to avoid a flood of e-mails. The latter is the more predominant reason why people use BCC. Just imaging if you send an e-mail to 50 recipient, and half of them feel compelled to reply to all.
Start a fresh e-mail thread for each topic
Even if you are working with the same group on multiple topics, start a fresh email for each. This will generate a clearer thread (trail) when people need to go back and read what’s previously been written. If you mix multiple topics, it could become really difficult to go back in time.
Don’t reuse old e-mail threads
For the same reason as stated in the previous point, don’t recycle old conversations just because you already have all your recipients conveniently in there. People do it all the time and irritate others who wonder why an old topic is being opened up again.
Don’t request read receipts
Some people get really irritated by these. If it helps to put your mind at easy, request a delivery receipt. It won’t guarantee your message has been opened, but you’ll know it made it to the recipient’s inbox.
Take it easy with those attachments
In general, attachments that exceed 4-5 MB are annoying. Although most inboxes allow for 10 MB+ e-mail messages, they still take time to download, form a load on the inbox, and are especially annoying and costly on 3G connections. You can send 100 MB attachments if you have to, but use a service like yousendit.com or shared folders so people can download your stuff when they are on a fast connection.
Don’t overdo it with your e-mail disclaimer
Some people feel compelled to include an entire contract at the bottom of their messages. If it’s that confidential, snail-mail it or have it hand-delivered. We’ve never heard of a legal case that was solved one way or another on the basis of what was written in the disclaimer.
Use proper language and watch your spelling and grammar
Writing u instead of you won’t save you any time. BR is not a nice way to sign off, and ur doesn’t mean anything in English, nor does tx for that matter.
Watch that font
Comic Sans MS for example is not a suitable font for business correspondence, regardless of how cool some people might think it looks. A 16-point font size is also not the best choice, as is an 8-point one. Times New Roman is passé, and Ariel is just plain boring. Calibri or Helvetica are great fonts and commonly used today because they are clear, clean, and easy to read.
Use short sentenced and break your e-mail into multiple paragraphs
Keep in mind, most of your e-mails today are being read on mobile phones. So the easier you make it for people to read what you write, the more likely they will do so.
Don’t rely too much on your auto-fill function
Your e-mail client may think it’s smart, but you could very easily send your message to the wrong recipient. Always check the names before hitting that send button. You’ll be surprised by how many times you will prevent mistakes that could be quite embarrassing.
Acknowledge receipt when appropriate
Sometimes, the sender really needs to know if you received their e-mail message. For instance, someone sent you a resume after a telephone interview. Don’t keep that person wondering if you got the CV or whether it’s sitting comfortably in your junk folder. A quick reply with “Well received, thank you” will suffice. You don’t even need to include a greeting line in this case, although it won’t harm you.
One last word of advice, and perhaps the most important one. Keep in mind that when communicating by e-mail, you are missing out on two critical communication elements; body language and tone of voice. Therefore, that quick e-mail you just dispatched in a hurry to make it home for dinner in time may be perceived as a rude piece of correspondence, and as such trigger the wrong reaction at the other end.
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
This article has been written and posted by Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting, LLC. Distribution, copying, and sharing is only authorized and permissible if no changes/ alterations are made to the content and appearance of this publication. Credit must be given to the publisher at all times by including this paragraph in any distribution. For additional articles, visit our website. To request an article about a specific topic you are interested in, please contact us with your request.