As Millennials, we are what some would call “digital natives.” We naturally understand how technology works and how the internet interacts. But one thing we are pretty bad at—email. Email etiquette? What’s that?
It’s probably to be blamed on the texting and chat habits ingrained in us from a young age. We really don’t write letters; we have conversations over text or chat, which imitate conversations we would have in person. I say something, you say something, I say something…oops I forgot a thing let me say something else before you respond.
That’s not how emails work.
Email Etiquette 101
Writing coherent emails, especially work emails, takes some practice. But never fear! Here are some tips on writing emails suitable for the workplace, and that communicate the right information in an effective way.
Defining why you’re sending the email will keep you from rambling.
- Ask yourself “What response do I need?” Are you trying to get answers to solve a problem or thoughts on a project, or are you simply sending an informative email? Defining why you’re sending the email will keep you from rambling and will also make sure you ask all the questions or include all the information needed.
- Send one email—Do it right the first time. Think about your email before you send it so you don’t have to send a follow-up email with something you forgot in the first one. Sending multiple, followup emails with extra questions or information just clogs up recipients’ email inboxes, making their work harder.
- Don’t try to be sarcastic. Tone doesn’t translate in email. It just doesn’t. All it does is confuse the other person and convolute the purpose of your email.
- Don’t write angry emails. Responding to that really dumb email with an appropriate, scathing remark may be tempting, but don’t do it. Trust me, it won’t work out. First, tone doesn’t come across in email, the recipient could confuse what you actually mean, or you might be confused by what they mean. Second, emails aren’t always clear. Maybe they left out a piece of vital information, or assume you already had that piece of information. Speaking from experience here. Just assume the best.
- Indicate why you’re sending the email. This might seem redundant, but for people who get bombarded with emails all day, sometimes telling them why you’re asking all these questions will get you a faster, more complete response. For example, “Hi, below are some questions I need answers to before I can move on with this project.” Now they know that your progress is dependent on their answer, which gives them a reason to respond as soon as they are able.
- Be professional, and get to the point—Emails aren’t chats. You don’t have to be stiff and overly formal, but be polite and courteous.
Wishing you luck in your email endeavors.