By: Mari-Kathryn Arnold, Ed.D.
As technology advances, the ways in which we communicate at work are constantly evolving. Despite that many of us have communicated with colleagues, friends, and families via e-mail for many years, our communication through email has become informal and now tends to push the boundaries of what is viewed as acceptable and professional in the workplace. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you send your next work email to help make sure that even if it is forwarded, you will be viewed as a professional.
Concise and Clear Subject Line
The growth of technology has helped to increase and improve various industries and many lines of work. While individuals can complete more tasks and higher volumes at rapid speeds, subject lines in emails help employees to manage the volume and organize their work. Clear and concise subject lines help identify the significance of the email. Although not every employee will delete an email without a subject line or an email with a vague, obscure, or even cute subject line, many emails that include a subject line lacking content or information will not be viewed as critical or imperative to that employee.
Attention to Replies
There are two components to focus on when replying to an email including monitoring the receiver(s) and ensuring that the content is appropriate for future sharing. When selecting the reply option, if the response does not apply to every recipient, be sure that only the appropriate recipients are included on the response. Personal information, personal feelings (positive or contentious), and inquiries should typically only be directed to specific individuals and not large groups. Whenever personal information is shared, there are questions of safety and professionalism that come into consideration.
When replying to emails, attention should also be spent on the phrasing and content of the response. Although most emails may not be forwarded for someone else to review, there is still a chance that if additional guidance or advice is needed on an email that your original content will be shared. To ensure that you appear as a true professional, it is important that the content of your email is absent of slang, vulgar, or inaccuracies. Be sure that the tone of your email is also peaceful and pleasant. Whether or not you are upset or heated, avoid putting words in all caps. This tone may be an immediate turnoff to the recipient, as you may appear snippy/curt, rude, or ignorant.
Inclusion of Salutations
Where content is concerned in an email, how you address the recipient will also indicate the formality and seriousness of the content, the level of respect you have for the recipient, and your level of professionalism. An appropriate and formal introduction salutation should always come before the content of your initial email interchange with your colleague. These include:
- Dear Mr. Smith
- Hello Ms. Johnson
- Hi Mrs. Robinson
Although it may not be necessary for your salutation to be so formal to include titles such as Mr., Mrs., and Ms., you will still want to focus on using words such as “Dear” and “Hello”, as they deliver a sense of professionalism. Be sure to avoid more casual salutations such as “Hey” or “Hi There”.
Salutations are more than how you start the email; they also help you with closing your letter and signing off. You want to make sure that how you end your email is just as formal as how you begin it. Some great sign-offs include:
- Best Regards
- Kind Regards
- Thank you
Although you will find times where you can use “Sincerely” as well, this is typically used for a formal personal email and less for the professional world. There are, however, many sign-offs that you will want to avoid as well. Anything that mentions faith, includes emojis/emoticons, or slang should be avoided.
Incorporating a Pleasantry/Greeting
Once you have started your email, be sure to include an aspect of small talk. Although many Millennial and Generation Z employees do not see the value in these types of remarks, many Generation X and Baby Boomers do. Before jumping into the details of why you are writing the email, try starting your email with a friendly statement that indicates that you respect the individual as a person. These might include something as simple as:
- I hope that this email finds you well
- I hope that you had a wonderful weekend
- I hope that your week is going well
- I hope that all has been well since we last spoke
Acknowledgement of Time
As you near the completion of your email, be sure that you are acknowledging the individual’s time. Although this seems inherent when interacting face to face with someone, often times, individuals get caught up in the moment and the writing that they forget how far a simple thank you will go. Understanding that the person you are emailing is not there to serve you and only you is important and will help to create a more welcoming and supportive work environment.
Another sign of professionalism in email is to include a signature or in the least your contact information. Whether it is an internal or external email, it is always encouraged for you to include your signature at the bottom of every email. This ensures that the recipients of your email will know how to contact you with any additional questions or concerns and can also easily share your contact information on to others.
Lastly, before you send any email, be sure to proofread. Make sure that it is free of spelling and grammar errors. When others, especially those beneath you, catch mistakes in emails, your credibility will be immediately questioned. Concerns or thoughts may pass through another’s mind questioning your education, qualifications, intelligence, and competence. When your authority begins to be questioned, your chances for advancement begin to become limited.