You’re emailing wrong at work. Follow this etiquette guide.

Navigating email etiquette can be tricky, especially in the ever-changing landscape of workplace communication. The pandemic has transformed the way we interact with colleagues, incorporating video conferences, instant messaging, and even texting. However, email remains a vital tool for many professionals, and using it effectively can greatly impact how you are perceived by your coworkers.

According to Andrea Weckerle, a professor at Georgetown University, email is still the default method of communication in the workplace. So it's important to understand good email behavior and avoid being perceived as annoying or disrespectful. To help with that, here are some tips from email and business experts:

Consider the best communication method:

Before sending an email, ask yourself who the intended reader is and consider the best way to communicate with them. Not all communications require an email. A quick question may be better suited for a face-to-face conversation, a text message, or an instant message. On the other hand, if the topic requires more explanation or related documents, email might be the most appropriate choice. Follow the norms of your workplace to determine the best approach, with email being a safe option for initial outreach.

Keep emails concise:

Be mindful of the length of your emails. While there's no hard rule on the exact length, it's generally advised not to go beyond a screen and a half. People's attention spans may be even shorter when reading on their phones. If you need to provide detailed information, consider attaching relevant documents or scheduling a meeting instead. Keep emails focused on the intended purpose, be clear and to the point, and show respect for the reader's time.

Make emails easy to read:

Avoid making your reader work to extract information from your email. Use a standard format, starting with a greeting followed by separate paragraphs and a polite sign-off. You can also use bullets or subheadings to facilitate finding specific information. Stick to the format used in your company, but make sure to avoid large blocks of text that strain the reader's eyes.

Consider timing:

If you find yourself working late or early, take advantage of the option to schedule emails to be sent later. This ensures that your email doesn't get buried and avoids causing unnecessary questions or panic about your timing. If scheduling is not possible, at least include a clear expectation of when you anticipate a response. Keep in mind that people may not read emails immediately, so it's not necessary to respond to every email received instantly.

Avoid overloading the inbox:

Avoid sending multiple emails to the same person before receiving a response. Doing so can give the impression that you lack organization. You can send a follow-up email if you forgot to mention something or as a gentle reminder if a timely response is needed. Typically, it's good practice to give people until the end of the day, or if it's late in the day, 24 hours to respond before sending another email. As the recipient, acknowledge receiving a message, even if a response is not required.

Watch your tone:

Maintain a professional and, in some cases, friendly tone in your emails. If you're upset or frustrated, it's advisable to take a moment to collect yourself before responding. Avoid being too casual or unfiltered, as emails can be forwarded to others. Read your email out loud to listen to how it sounds; if it comes across as harsh, consider revising it before sending it. Tools like AI bots or tone checkers can also help you analyze the tone of your email but always remember to add your personal touch to maintain a human connection.

Use your voice:

While there are helpful tools and resources available to assist in drafting emails, don't solely rely on copy-pasting. People appreciate knowing they are engaging with a human being, and it's essential to infuse your own voice and personal touch into your emails. Feel free to utilize these tools as a starting point, but take the time to edit and customize the email to reflect your unique style.

Proofread before sending:

Before hitting send, take a moment to proofread your email. Check for any errors or misspellings, particularly in names and important details. Even if you use autofill or predictive text, make sure the machine hasn't made any mistakes. Consistently sending emails with errors may negatively impact your professionalism and attention to detail.

Avoid unnecessary reply-all:

In most cases, people dislike receiving unnecessary reply-all emails. Unless it's specifically required, it's best to hit reply instead of reply-all to avoid cluttering inboxes with redundant messages.

Limit the use of emojis and formatting:

Exercise moderation when it comes to emojis, exclamation marks, quotes, colors, and fonts in your emails. These elements should be used sparingly, as excessive use can detract from the professionalism of your message. In many cases, simplicity is more effective and avoids distractions.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your email communication is effective, respectful, and professional, ultimately fostering better relationships with your colleagues.  

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