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Although we all use various forms of social media, email is still the number one business communication tool. And yet, how often do people work very hard at every aspect of their job, but somehow forget that their emails reflect who they are and can have a direct impact on their credibility?

We are often asked to give seminars on Email Etiquette in the Workplace to ensure employees follow some basic rules, such as:

You can be informal, but never sloppy. While you may use commonly accepted abbreviations and be less formal when communicating with colleagues, remember that emails sent to external clients are a reflection on you and your company, so apply traditional spelling, grammar and punctuation rules.

Keep your messages brief, well-organized and to-the-point. Get to the point right away and re-read your messages before sending them to make sure they don't contain unnecessary information. Avoid addressing more than one subject per email, break your messages into paragraphs, and use bulleted or numbered lists when necessary for added clarity.

Remember that your tone can’t be heard in an email message. Avoid sarcasm and attempts at humour that may be misconstrued. Some people use emoticons like smiley faces, but use them sparingly as they can appear unprofessional. And although it may seem obvious, don’t forget the magic words: “Please” and “Thank you”.

The subject should reflect the message content. Never leave the subject line blank and avoid generic subjects like “Hi” or “From Jane” and make sure the subject clearly states the purpose of the message.

Use sentence case and pay attention to the font style. Not only does using all CAPITAL LETTERS LOOK LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING OR ANGRY, studies have proven that uppercase only messages take longer to read. To add emphasis, use bold or surround your text with asterisks. Avoid using coloured text and graphics, as not all email programs display them and don’t make your message look like a ransom note by using multiple font styles and sizes!

Don’t keep replying to an old email with new content. This can make trying to find messages relevant to the new content a difficult and time-consuming task.

Include the original message thread. Have you ever received a reply to an email that didn’t include the original email text and had to hunt through your sent items to make sense of the response? In business, it’s useful to keep the entire message history intact for future reference.

Use a signature that contains contact information. How many times have you wanted to pick up the phone and call the sender of an email, but had to take the extra time to look up their number? Sometimes the phone number is included, but the extension forgotten, which is another time-waster involving searching the company directory or waiting for an operator. It’s not necessary to include your email address – it’s included in the message header.

Make sure your signature doesn’t overpower your message. Include useful information such as your name, contact information, website address and perhaps the company logo for branding purposes. Avoid your street address, inspirational quotes, the specials of the month and other unnecessary information and don’t use multiple font styles and colours.

Check your facts before sending virus and other warnings. Use sites like www.snopes.com to check whether the content is a hoax. Keep joke and other non-business emails to a minimum and don’t hesitate to ask those who send you lots of jokes, etc. to either leave you off their list, or direct them to a non-business email account.

When forwarding emails, delete the original recipient lists. Do you really need to include the names and email addresses of everyone who originally received the email? Probably not. So, select and delete them before sending. It will help to protect their privacy and eliminate unnecessary information.

Use blind courtesy copy and courtesy copy appropriately. With internal email, unless you have a compelling reason, don’t use BCC to keep others from seeing who you copied; it shows confidence and trust when you directly CC anyone receiving a copy. Do use BCC, however, when sending to a large distribution list to protect the recipients’ privacy and so recipients won’t have to see a huge list of names. Be cautious with your use of CC; copy only those who are directly involved to avoid inbox clutter.

Don’t use emails to avoid personal contact. Don’t forget to pick up the phone or pay a quick visit to a client or colleague – while email is convenient and has its role, there are times when good old fashioned “human” communication is the best choice!

© 2017 DJH Training & Application Solutions Inc.

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