Email is probably the most common form of business communication in use today. Whether you are a solo business owner or an employee of a large corporation, you probably send and receive email messages many, many times each day. But truth be told, too often many of us send email messages that have a tendency to sound snippy, bossy, or even ditsy. Even worse, we sometimes fail to send a reply altogether.
Oftentimes, we are sending emails to people whom we have never met in person. These relationships are based solely on the emails we send back and forth.
You are not a snippy, bossy, angry person. And you absolutely are not ditsy. Do you want Mr. Smith to think you are snippy, bossy, angry, or - heaven forbid - ditsy? And of course you want Mr. Smith to know that his email message is very important to you.
Here are a few dos and don'ts that will help you showcase your professional image and allow your true intent to be read with a smile each and every time you click send:
- Always include a concise subject line. This will make clear what your message is about and will help recipients prioritize their inbox.
- If this is the first few communications with someone, begin the message with a greeting, such as "Dear Mr. Jones." It's polite and it's professional. Later on "Hello, John" is perfectly fine.
- Do not write your message in all caps. It sets an angry tone, and NO ONE LIKES TO BE YELLED AT.
- Do put your main point in the opening sentence. Let people know exactly what you are writing about. They are just as busy as you are.
- Do write short, polite paragraphs. Your message should not be a novel.
- But... don't be so short so that your tone is bossy. Read over your message. Do you sound bossy? "If you have a moment, I would like to speak with you right away," sounds so much nicer than, "I want to talk with you ASAP." I am not seven, and you are not my father.
- Please do not use abbreviations or acronyms, unless you are 15 and texting your BFF.
- Do use spell check. Never skip this step. Never.
- Please do remember to say please and thank you. You have manners. Please use them.
- And finally, do always reply to an email within 24 hours. If you need more time, for instance, you are not sure how to respond, send a brief reply to acknowledge you received the email and provide a time or date when you will be back in touch. After all, do you like to be left hanging?
Send the right tone from the beginning and showcase your professionalism and efficiency. It's your business. Be an expert!
If you struggle with setting the right tone in your email messages, there is a new email plugin called ToneCheck. ToneCheck checks for emotionally charged words or sentences within email messages and works similarly to spell check. Any angry or potentially accusatory phases will be highlighted, giving you the option to rephrase your message. At this time, ToneCheck works exclusively with Outlook, but will soon expand beyond Outlook as market demand increases. It does seem very useful and worth checking out.