Email has become an essential tool within the business world. Millions and millions of emails move across the globe, and across the corporate campus, every day. However, a lot of senders treat business email the same way they treat an email to an old college friend.
There are no hard and fast “must haves” when emailing business associates, but there are some generally recognized best practices for the use of email — both internally with coworkers, and externally with prospects, clients, vendors and others associated with your company.
1. Skip the email templates. Many email services provide background templates that appear in the background of your message. So, your email can look like it’s written on parchment or glitter. Business emails should look professional, not like something your teen-aged daughter uses as her email background.
2. Date your emails. You should date traditional correspondence. Add the date at the top of all emails, and responses to emails. With some email services, tracking the sequence of a long exchange can be confusing. Dating each reply helps the recipient sequence the email exchange.
3. Use the subject box to tell the recipient what the email is about and who sent it. Some busy businesspeople get hundreds of emails every day. These busy execs scan the subject of all these emails, opening and reading only the ones that clearly explain the importance of that particular email.
So, instead of typing: “Some stuff you should read” in the subject box, type: “Recap of morning meeting – Marge Baxter.” Now, the recipient knows what the email contains, and who sent it.
4. Provide all contact information. The recipient of an email can usually “reply,” but he or she may not have a telephone number, a street address or even a website URL. Provide all of this information at the end of each email – even to coworkers who have you on speed dial.
First, the recipient can contact you on the fly, even though your telephone number is “back at the office.” Second, recipients don’t have to sift through their contact files to find your website address to place an order. It’s right there, after the sender’s ‘signature’, with a link directly to the website or email reply box.
5. Keep it ASAP – As Short as Possible. Use email attachments to transmit important information, especially if it’s lengthy and/or detailed. Then use the body of the email to tell the recipient what’s attached. This makes emails easier to read, and also simplifies saving email attachments in the right folder.
6. Don’t send confidential or proprietary information in an email. An email can sit around for years, available for prying eyes to access. Instead, send the “eyes-only” information as an email attachment that can be downloaded, locked up and protected against casual hackers who may access a long-forgotten email. If the email contains confidential information, type CONFIDENTIAL in the subject box.
7. Use CC and BCC correctly. A courtesy copy (CC) is visible to the primary recipient. It simply shows the recipient who else received the email. A blind CC (BCC) is invisible to the recipient. As a general rule, BCCs should be avoided, because if the primary recipient later discovers someone else was “listening in” on the correspondence, it may erode their trust in the sender. One exception would be when you send a general email to a large group. In this case, the BBC feature eliminates showing that long list of email addresses to which the email was sent.
8. Be clear. You may use a certain tone that you “hear” as you compose an email, but it may not be “heard” by the reader. Remember, your tone isn’t conveyed in an email, so make sure your message is clear and unambiguous, especially if you are sending bad news or negative feedback. If you’re unsure, ask a colleague to review the email before you hit “send.”
9. Don’t forward “chain emails,” spam or other junk mail. These time-wasters sometimes contain viruses that can be spread throughout the office, giving hackers access to the company server and all the valuable information it contains. Use your business email account for business purposes only.
10. Always reply. Let the sender know you received the email and attachments. It’s the courteous thing to do, and may save them the trouble of sending another email asking if you received the first one.
11. Don’t use emoticons, like smiley faces, in business communications. It’s unprofessional. The same is true with texting shortcuts: “G8 mtng this AM. Lol whle hr.” Your texting teenager may understand it, but your vendor may not.
12. Place the conclusion of the email at the beginning of the email. Don’t make the reader plow through a detailed analysis to get to the most important point. Place the conclusion at the beginning of the email, then follow up with your analysis. This is a time saver for both sender and recipient.
Email is now a part of our daily work routine. Learn the proper way to present yourself in an email, help the recipient understand the intent of your email, identify confidential content, and look professional in your email correspondence. That’s how you can improve the effectiveness of email communication within your company.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.