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Rules for Professional E-Mail Etiquette

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“The bottom line is, good communication skills equate to good relationships, a better career path, better mental health, and a better chance for overall success in your career and personal life”

Employers often list communication skills as their highest priority, above even the qualifications for the job in question. Communication is essential in business to convey ideas, to have good relationships with colleagues and staff, to handle interviews, to create an impact with your presence, to network, the list is endless.

The bottom line is, good communication skills equate to good relationships, a better career path, better mental health, and a better chance for overall success in your career and personal life.

Forms of professional communication include written, verbal and non-verbal formal and informal communication. Not surprisingly, e-mail the most frequently used form of written formal communication today.

Here are a few simple points we need to keep in mind while writing a professional e-mail:

1. Pay attention to the subject line – Try to keep it concise and clear, and make sure it reflects the actual content of the e-mail. Avoid using ‘Hello’ or ‘FYI’, or other general greetings as subjects.

2. Always use a proper salutation or greeting – ‘Good morning’, ‘Good day’, ‘Greetings’ or ‘Hello’ are acceptable ways to begin your e-mail; while ‘Hey’ and ‘Hi’ are not appropriate for formal e-mails.

3. Write a proper introduction – Especially when writing to someone for the first time, it is best to include your full name along with some background information in the first few lines. For example, “Dear Ms. Mathews: My name is Anjala Singh, Editor of Literature Today magazine; I am writing to you regarding…”

However, in certain cultures (such as Japanese), it is not considered appropriate to introduce yourself directly to a potential contact, such introductions are customarily made by mutually respected third parties. So, it is always best to research the customs of a country you are unfamiliar with, before writing an e-mail or starting any kind of communication.

“Millions of e-mails are sent across the globe on a daily basis. Yet, a single poorly written e-mail can damage your professional image”

4. Avoid humour and sarcasm – It is easy to misinterpret e-mail messages if the context is not clear. Humour is culture-specific and can oftentimes confuse or worse, offend the recipient.

5. Do not use the ‘Reply All’ option unless it is actually needed – Avoid using ‘Reply-to-All’ unless everyone needs to know. For example, when a C-level executive (Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Office, and so forth) or their assistant sends an e-mail to ten staff members requesting volunteers for a project, reply to the sender of the e-mail, not to all the other recipients of the mail. Reply-to-All is a function for ongoing deliberations on a particular subject.

6. Break up your e-mail into concise points – Use bullet points when possible and stick to the basic information. Do not write an essay when three sentences can do the job.

7. Before hitting the ‘send’ button, ask yourself, “Does the receiver need all this information,” or, “Could this be better as a conversation over the phone instead?”

8. Reply promptly – On working days, formal e-mails should ideally be replied to within 24 hours.

9. Use proper language – Do not use short forms or acronyms, or slang in your e-mail.

10. Proofread – Check your grammar and spelling before hitting ‘send’.

Millions of e-mails are sent across the globe on a daily basis. Yet, a single poorly written e-mail can damage your professional image. It would be helpful to remember here that every successful person has superior communication skills. In fact, the most admired and best leaders are the most clear communicators. You can take the first step by improving your e-mail writing skills!

The article was originally published in Career Ahead April 2021 issue.

Career Ahead offers a view into the real-life experiences of accomplished individuals from all arenas. The magazine also features first-hand insights into student life along with career tips, inspiration, and relevant news for young people and professionals.

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