We get a lot of emails when we’re at work. The average number is around 80 per day. Without proper time management we quickly end up spending hours scrolling through and looking for a specific message. In the midst of email overload it’s easy to overlook something important. Practice the habit of cleaning up your mailbox twice a day so you only have to manage what matters. We might not be able to control what we receive, but we can control what we send and thus what others receive. These five email best practices will help you write effective emails.
1. Think and Act Smart
The sheer volume of emails is one of the biggest stressors at work. Ask yourself if the email you are about to write is really necessary. Use the phone or instant messaging if you are expecting the conversation to go back and forth. Send one email with your conclusions if you need to keep a record.
Also consider that many emails contain a complete history of previous communication and that emails get forwarded accidentally. Practice email discretion so no one gets hurt or embarrassed.
2. Make the Subject Line Work for You and Others
Always, always, always fill in the subject line. A blank subject line is likely to be overlooked or rejected. It also makes finding a particular email later on much harder.
If you are expecting a response, consider including a call to action in the subject line, such as “Please reply by December 12th.”
Try to deliver useful information in your subject line. Don’t write “Meeting” but write “Fraud alert meeting – 1 pm December 20th, 2014”
3. What You Write and How You Write Will Contribute to Your Reputation
Though emails are often treated as a less formal means of communication they still reflect your level of professionalism. Emoticons can be used if they are helpful to clarify your intent, but avoid them otherwise. Assume all emails are shared or printed out so always be polite.
4. Be Mindful of the Emotional Message Your Emails Can Have
Emails are void of body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions. This makes them prone to being misunderstood. Check your choice of words, sentence length, punctuation, and capitalization as these can easily be misinterpreted without visual and auditory cues. Think about how your email feels emotionally.
5. Scrutinize the Content and Proof for Errors
Finally, before you hit “send”, take a moment to review your email for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Your email messages are as much a part of your professional image as the clothes you wear, so it looks bad to send out a message that contains typos.
If you struggle with staying on top of your messages and want more email best practices, Conquer Your Inbox will help you deal with the constant stream of e-mails efficiently and truly master your inbox.