Professionals today constantly communicate via email. In some cases, it is the primary means of contact and exchange. Yet because email facilitates both casual communications among friends and formal communications in the workplace, sometimes that distinction can become blurred – and professional communications take on a too-casual tone.
In the workplace, it is important to have clearly defined protocol that supports professional, well-crafted emails that protect the image of the sender and his or her company. To some readers this may be obvious, but the mistakes outlined in this blog still occur all the time.
Here are several common email etiquette mistakes to keep in mind as you write your own professional emails.
- Misuse of Reply-All
The reply-all button can cause frustration and embarrassment when it is not used properly. Be conscious of when you need to reply-all to continue an ongoing conversation. Failing to include everyone who should be on an email chain will cut others out of the loop and will create delays and confusion.That said, be very aware when you should not reply-all. Constantly replying-all when others no longer need to be part of a conversation perpetuates email overload. Also, you may share sensitive information that you do not want others to read through an accidental reply-all. However, always remember that email is not a secure communication, so never send an email that would embarrass you if shared or one that contains confidential information.
- Overly Casual Salutations
Have you ever opened a work-related email that began with the salutation “Hey”? Though this may be appropriate for a casual exchange among friends, it does not have a place in a professional setting.For external contacts, contacts you have never met, or to show a sign of respect to anyone, “Dear” is a reliable salutation. Once you develop a more informal rapport, “Hello” or “Hi” is an acceptable alternative.
- Overly Casual Sign-Offs
Like salutations, sign-offs can quickly become too informal. Again, for communications between unfamiliar or formal contacts, choose a classic sign-off such as “Best Regards” or “Sincerely.”Your level of formality in a sign-off will vary, depending on whether you are sending an initial email to an external connection or a quick response to an internal colleague. Still, know your audience: many contacts (even internal ones) will balk at a very casual sign-off such as “Cheers.” A more reliable sign-off in a more casual setting would be “Best.”For further analysis on email sign-offs, Forbes has compiled a list of 57 common – and not so common – sign-offs, along with commentary on each.
- Vague or Absent Subject Line
When writing an email, it is important to remember that your email will take up the recipient’s valuable time, and that your email will be one among many in an overcrowded inbox. Therefore it is important to have a clear, concise, and specific title in the subject line.Do not forget to include a subject before you send an email. A blank subject line suggests that you hastily sent a message without reviewing it first. This will reflect poorly on the rest of your communication.
- Grammar or Spelling Mistakes
Even though an email is not an official document, be sure to read it over before sending to make sure you do not have grammar or spelling mistakes. Consistently sending emails with typos will make you look sloppy and could reflect on your other work as well.Also, be wary of the auto-correct function on your email server or phone. Although it is meant to correct typos, it often supplies a word that you did not mean to type. This could get confusing for both sender and receiver!
Techno-communication etiquette is an indispensible component of our Business Etiquette Training Program. As technology continues to advance, this topic will become even more relevant. Make sure you are well versed in the guidelines of digital communication protocol.
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