Did you know that we spend up to 25 per cent of our working day on email? And 61 per cent of workers reckon it’s the most important business tool. Despite that, according to experts, most business professionals still have no idea how to use it properly. From inappropriate salutations to the dreaded ‘reply to all’ how many of the mistakes highlighted in ‘The Essentials of Business Etiquette‘ do you make?
I have taken a look at the 15 recommendations made by the author, Barbara Pachter, then selected (and taken the absolute liberty of renaming) my top 7 which are listed below:
1. Avoid cryptic headlines – how often do you read a headline of an email and have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be about? According to Barbara Pachter, “People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line. Choose one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues.”
So if that’s the case then why start with something like “This might be interesting for that thing you are working on”. Makes it sound like spam. Instead, make your headline clear, simple and succinct. “Meeting date changed” or “Suggestions for tomorrows presentation” are infinitely preferable. As my rather smart ex-colleague Ian Gee from Geenius Consulting is fond of saying… KISS. Nope that’s not a reference to the face painted 1970’s hard rockers but a neat little acronym: Keep It Simple Stupid.
2. Be wary of the ‘Reply to all’ – How many emails do you receive each day that have absolutely no relevance to you simply because you were included in the initial version of the email? I’m guessing at least 30 per cent. Don’t add to the deluge – check if you really need everyone to see your response. It’s a good habit to adopt and will prevent that other heinous crime of intending to reply just to the sender but sending to everyone (particularly when that note is a personal message, or even worse, copying in someone you definitely didn’t want to see that note).
3. Hey, Yo? No – Given that this is meant to be a professional salutation it’s not particularly appropriate to start your message with a a colloquial introduction. According to Pachter, you simply need to stick to a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. That said, I think if you know the recipient pretty well then personally I don’t see why you can’t throw in a quick ‘wotcha’ (or is it just me?)
4. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – Stop overusing exclamation points! No seriously, stop it!! Apparently you can use one in an email. Just one?! Pachter suggests, “People sometimes get carried away and put a number of exclamation points at the end of their sentences. The result can appear too emotional or immature. Exclamation points should be used sparingly in writing.” True that!! Sorry.
5. Just not funny – Usage of humour in emails must be seriously curtailed. Well that’s me screwed then. It transpires that using humour in an email is ill advised unless you know the person very well. Pachter supports her opinion by stating that because people have such vast variances when it comes to determining what is amusing, it’s too much of a risk to take. So when in doubt? Leave it out.
6. Write it, read it. Then read it again – Isn’t it irritating that you can send an incredibly polished email which makes a very clear statement only for it to be undermined by a solitary spelling error? Harsh but true. And don’t rely on your spellchecker to get you out of a huge gaping sinkhole. Like satellite navigation, it cannot always be trusted. And as for grammar? It’s or its? Who cares? (well, actually I do). Write your email, then read it, edit it if necessary and then read it again before you hit that send button.
7. Size (and font) matters – I wrote a related article about this very subject a few months ago entitled “What Your Font Choice says About You”. Pachter recommends only using classic fonts such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Hmm, the article I wrote suggests that these are lazy / boring choices (what do the experts know right?). Font colour? You should only use black. And as for size? You have the choice of only 10 or 12 apparently. So I can’t use my favoured Giddyup font in acid green size 56? Pity, I think it really livens up an email to a prospective client and positively screams individuality. Or maybe psychosis?
So there you have my favourite seven. Have you any additional hints or tips to add? And what horrors have you committed by not obeying the rules?