Email has become the standard communication tool in today's business world. Those able to write effectively have shown to be more likely to be promoted or advance their careers more quickly than those who lack writing skills.
You don't have to have a degree in writing to be an effective email writer. Following some simple "email etiquette guidelines" will go a long way in become an effective communicator via email.
Following email etiquette guidelines will help portray professionalism, improve efficiency in communication, and help your reputation among peers and supervisors.
I've condensed the guidelines into a top 10 list:
1. Get to the point! Ever get one of those voice mails that just goes on and on and you just don't want to hear it anymore? Well, email is the same way. If you don't get to the point quickly you may lose your audience and your ability to communicate the original message. Emails should not exceed more than 2-3 paragraphs. If you find yourself writing more than that it may be better to contact the person and talk to them. Yes, talking is still a very effective method of communication.
2. Spelling and Grammar! Sounds simple right? You'd be surprised how many emails I get with misspellings. It just makes you look uneducated and puts a subliminal strike against you when you're being evaluated for a promotion.
3. Don't try to make a joke within an email unless you have a very close relationship with the person(s) on the other end. Even then jokes are not easily conveyed in writing and may be misinterpreted when read.
4. Use good subjects with key words. Most people like to filter email. Having a good subject makes filtering and searching for your email easier. Also I've seen some people write an email with using only the subject header (no body). This is considered a no-no. It is very difficult to convey your message in just a subject header.
5. Read the email before you send it. Even the best writers need to revise their drafts. If you follow rule number #1 you won't have much to edit.
6. Don't keep emailing the guy in the cubicle next to you. Make an effort to build relationships with people by talking with them. Email is just one tool the help communication, but building relationships is really what we want to do and is what helps us most both professionally and personally.
7. Don't attach huge attachments. It take too long to download and your not helping your system administrators. Find place to post you attachment and send a link to it instead.
8. Use a friendly tone. Tone is a very difficult thing to portray in email and it comes with practice. Having a "bad email tone" can put off the recipient and cause some animosity. Culture also plays a role in understanding tone. For example the Chinese don't use red font to write a message. Writing in red indicates that you no longer wish to continue a friendship. Also most cultures view using ALL CAPS as yelling. This goes back to building relationships with your colleagues using face time. If you have a good relation with the recipients of your emails you can easily repair damaged feelings or portray a better tone with them.
9. Make the email personal. Don't use generic templates when writing messages. People are inundated with spam and unwanted messages today. If the message does not look like it is directed at them they will simply glance over it or just deleted all together.
10. Answer emails quickly. Email is supposed to be used as a quick form of communication. It defeats the purpose if you have to wait a week or more for a response.
I may have to expand this list to my top 20 rules since I know I'm missing more guidelines. Stay tuned for updates...