Writing Etiquette 101 — Work Emails

TSP • @myTSPnet


You’ve got mail. Lots and lots of e-mail.

Have you ever considered that e-mails you send are a digital first impression? After all, without a physical presence to judge, your emails are often the only representation recipients have to make a judgment about you and your credibility. Experts estimate that employees spend a quarter of the work week composing and responding to emails, therefore refining and improving your email etiquette should be a top priority.

Your subject line matters. Studies show that 47 percent of email recipients open an email based on the subject line. A clear, enticing subject line is crucial in capturing your audience's attention as it sets the tone for the rest of your message. Your email is potentially competing with dozens — if not hundreds — of other emails for your recipient's attention.

Vague subject lines are a sure route to the trash. For example, if you’re sending a proposal email with an attachment, let the recipient know immediately with a subject line that states, “XYZ Proposal Attached.” You only have a few seconds to grab an individual’s attention, so make the most of your subject line.

Know your audience and more importantly, consider how your audience views you. An email can serve as a handshake, a pat on the back for a job well done or a supportive hug. Most likely, you represent a company or organization in addition to yourself. It’s important to keep this top of mind when crafting your email. Make sure your message aligns with the standards and voice of your company. Core values are incredibly important to an organization — they can be a powerful guiding tool when drafting a message.

Think, would you be comfortable with your boss, your CEO or any of your colleagues reading this email? Asking yourself this question before hitting the send button is always a good rule of thumb. Additionally, consider making a visual reminder of your company’s values in your workspace, even if it is just as simple as posting them on a sticky note near your computer.

The relationship you have with the recipient will drive the tone of your email. It’s easy to come across as stiff and boring in emails since the recipient is not able to hear your tone or see your expressions and body language. Professionals often turn to humor to add personality to their emails, but be careful. Why? How many times has an email been misinterpreted? When in doubt — leave it out. Instead, focus on infusing more personality in your emails with thoughtful language design.

This tip is especially important when addressing complex or sensitive matters. It may seem like common sense, but we often neglect to proof our own e-mails. While one or two quick checks are optimal, agonizing over details and word choice options are unnecessary and can be counterproductive. Reading the e-mail backward will force you to slow down and allow you to catch errors.

Even though you know better than anyone else what you are trying to convey, asking a colleague for a quick opinion can be helpful and give you the validation to confidently hit send. And for the grammar nerds, if you’re looking to go the extra mile and invest in a grammar editing tool, consider using Grammarly.

There are a lot of traditional and even silly ways to sign off a professional email. While many people rely on “Sincerely” or “Best,” did you know that closing with “Regards” has the highest response rate? The visual appeal of your signature is important, too. A professional and aesthetically pleasing computer signature can be the perfect final touch. What should your signature include? Sources suggest including your name, title, company, link to the company website and phone number.

When following up, remember to reply to your original email so it’s easier for the recipient to easily access the original message. More often than not, following up on a previous email is more important than the initial message itself.

You’ll make a positive digital impression if you remember to put these tips into daily practice.