Thursday, December 12, 2013

Professional Email Etiquette

14 tips to keep your emails from ending up in the junk folder

When thinking about our online persona and reputation, we forget that our email is part of that. E-mail can often be rapid fire communication with little thought behind it. But, we need to remember that our emails still make an impression. It can affect your reputation whether you’re searching for a job, or you’re already employed. It’s important to remember that there are certain professional standards expected for e-mail use. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding professional e-mail conduct:

Use a professional email address. If possible, use an email address that contains your name so that the recipient knows exactly who's sending the email. Never use emails that are not appropriate for use in the workplace, such as "blondebomb@..." or "babygirl@..."

Spell names correctly. When you're at a computer, on the Internet, with Google at your fingertips, there really is no excuse for spelling someone's name incorrectly. Especially when the person's full name is in their email address or in their email signature!

Be professional in your presentation. Use spell check or set up automatic spell check to run before messages are sent.  Don’t use multiple fonts or colors, or bold or italicize too many words. Misspellings, writing in all capital letters, poor grammar, slang, emoticons or text acronyms are not good form for professional correspondence. Do not use a lot of graphics embedded in your message, not everyone uses an e-mail program that can display them.

Be careful with humor.
Humor can get lost in translation without the benefit of tone of voice or facial expressions. In a professional exchange, it's better to leave out attempts at humor unless you know the recipient well. Also, something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else.

Skip the chain letters, virus warnings, and joke emails. Always check a reputable source or your IT department before sending out an alarm about viruses. Chain emails, as well as joke emails aren’t normally workplace appropriate; unless you are sure your recipient(s) truly enjoy or appreciate the content.

E-mail isn't private. E-mail is considered company property and can be retrieved, examined, and used in a court of law. You should also never assume that e-mail over the Internet is secure. Never put in an e-mail message anything that you wouldn't put on a postcard. E-mail can be forwarded, so unintended audiences may see what you've written. Have you ever inadvertently sent something to the wrong party? Always keep the content professional to avoid embarrassment.

Use sentence case. USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IS INTERPRETED AS SHOUTING. However, using only lowercase letters looks sloppy and lazy.

Use CC appropriately. Copy only people who are directly involved or who have a need to know. Don’t unnecessarily clutter the inboxes of people who don’t really need to see your emails.

Use group e-mail sparingly. Only send group e-mail when it's useful to all recipients. And just as importantly, only use the "reply all" button when truly necessary.

Subject lines are important.  Make sure the subject line relates to the content of your email. Not only will this increase the changes of the email being read, it can facilitate searching for emails when we need to do so. Blank subject lines are not helpful, nor are subject lines that have nothing to do with the content ("Happy Friday!"). Depending on your audience, you can also put "reply requested", "action required" or "FYI" in the subject line to indicate what you need from them, being careful to not come across as overly demanding.

Don’t forget your attachments.  Take care to remember to attach the documents you want to send. We’ve all forgotten to do this at times! Also, always mention your attachments in your e-mail to help your reader notice them.

Use a signature that includes contact information. To ensure that people know who you are, include a signature that has your contact information, including your mailing address, Web site, and phone numbers.

Don’t expect instant responses. Email wasn't created so that we could all respond to each other's messages at the speed of light (well, ok, maybe it was). But in business, that’s just not always possible. There's nothing wrong with a friendly follow-up if you’re not heard from the recipient in a reasonable length of time, but don’t get impatient if you don’t receive a response in minutes.

Respond in a timely manner.  Despite the above item, respond to e-mails within the same business day if possible. If you don’t have the information requested by the sender, acknowledge you’ve received the email and will respond further when you can provide the information.

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