After working in office environments for a number of years, one of the best pieces of advice that I would give to office newbies and veterans alike is to pay attention to email etiquette.
Each day I send and receive dozens of emails (both for work and my personal life), and it’s amazing how many people just don’t get what’s acceptable and what makes for socially awkward and annoying communication.
Here are the top questions you should be asking yourself before clicking the send button:
1. Should I “reply all” or edit the recipient list?
When replying to an email with multiple recipients, consider whether all of the other people in the conversation need (or will want) to be included in your response. If it’s a brainstorming session or if you’re contributing feedback to an idea, it’s probably fine. However, if you’re simply responding with a “yes,” or “no,” you may want to think twice. And, if the reply contains sensitive information, it is likely best to respond directly to the sender.
2. Is it appropriate to “cc” or “bcc”?
Whether you’re copying in a client with pertinent details of a project or just sending an FYI about a staff function, it’s important to think about when and how to include people in on the conversation. If the information is fine to be shared with others, “cc” is a good option. It’s also helpful to use the “to” and “cc” fields to define who you’re looking for a response from, and who you are just intending to inform.
When it comes to the “bcc” function, this should be saved for when the recipient may feel uncomfortable with the contents of the email being visible to others. It may also be a good option when you’re parlaying a message that your boss or supervisor should be privy to, but you want to avoid looking like you’re tattling on a coworker.
3. How does my writing reflect my message?
When writing a professional email, it’s a good idea to align the importance of your message with the quality of your writing. If you are making a proposal to a client or negotiating a raise, texting shorthand is not even close to adequate. It diminishes your credibility, and devalues the substance of your message. It tells others that you’re not willing to invest time and/or effort into the conversation, which could prompt a similar response from those receiving your email.
In addition to language, tone can make a big difference. If you are conversing with close co-workers, a more casual voice can be fine. However, if you’re not, make sure your writing is profession and respectful.
Plus, everyone knows what spell check is. This means that if you are sending emails packed with spelling mistakes, it’s only because you haven’t bothered to fix them. So, turn on your email spell check, and take a quick second to ensure that you haven’t used the wrong “their,” “they’re,” or “there,” or committed another major spelling or grammar offense.
4. Is my sign off suitable for my audience and the conversation?
At the end of an email, consider who you’re talking to and the action that you want them to take, and go from there. “Best Regards” and “Thank you” are both generally considered friendly and courteous salutations. However, it often comes down to taste. Overall, it’s usually best to err on the side of formality.
It’s also a good idea to create a professional signature line with your title, contact info, and company name included, giving you the chance to portray a professional and put together image.
About the Author: Jennifer Kwasnicki is a career and education writer for Trade-Schools.net and its blog, where she helps to provide potential students with comprehensive resources related to schools, careers, and more.