We all have received a wide variety of email. Because email has become so second nature in the workplace, it’s easy to forget some of the etiquette that goes along with it. It’s easy to send an instantaneous response to mark it off your to-do list and move on to the next item.
Keep it short and to the point – Depending on the topic, emails can get long. It’s important to realize that not everyone has the time to read every word of a long email, and they may not be able to digest it all. Make it easy for them by indicating the main point of the email in the first sentence, and using bullet points to summarize what you are trying to say. You can use bold and/or colors to indicate any actions that they have to take or any response that you are expecting back. This helps organize the email and helps the reader focus on what you are trying to communicate.
Think of the urgency – Not everyone uses email the same way. Some may get their email on their phone, and respond right away, while others will take their time to respond. Consider the urgency of the topic and the response time that you would like to achieve. If it is something urgent, email may not be the right way to communicate which in case you may need to use other means of communication.
Don’t make it personal – Email is open to the reader’s interpretation. Because it’s something that we read and process, the way that we interpret the information in the email can be different than what the author intended. Try to keep it objective and related to the topic being discussed. Let’s see a simple example. I send out an email to a group of reviewers of a draft contract that I’m working on. I indicate in the email that I would like their feedback. I get responses back with edits to the document. Do I take those responses personally? Absolutely not. They are critiquing the draft contract, not me. And, the contract is something that I’m creating on behalf of the organization, so it is a team effort. Email lacks body language and tone, so we can easily end up misinterpreting the intention.
Use links and minimize attachments – Have you ever thought to yourself “I know I have that attachment in my email, somewhere?” In the workplace, usually there are shared drives where you can place your documents and provide others a link to where they are stored. This provides a common way for all to access the document rather than looking up email. This also helps reduce hoarding problems in emails. Doing this minimizes the need to use email as the primary means for looking up documents and storing them.
Use “Thank you” sparingly – Have you ever met someone who replies “Thank you” to almost every email that you send? After a while, I tend to ignore their replies and I become complacent. Therefore, save your “thank you” (and the relevant network traffic) for when you are really grateful and show them in person.
Purvi Bodawala is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.