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The Definitive Don’ts of Workplace Emails

Emailing is an important means of communication in the workplace, and just as you wouldn’t eat spaghetti with your hands in a business meeting, you want to pay close attention to email etiquette to make sure you’re emanating a polished image. Check out this list of rules to see if you’re consistently breaching any of the workplace email “Don’ts.”

Don’t forget to proofreed.

Careless typos (or any typos, for that matter) are distracting to the reader and look highly unprofessional. Always take the time to read over an email a second time, whether it’s to a client or a coworker. Everyone makes an occasional mistake, but it’s worth the effort to minimize them.

Don’t type in the email address until you’ve finished the message completely.

It’s very easy to hit “Send” before you’ve finished drafting an email, or before you’ve added the attachment. Get into the habit of completely typing and proofreading your emails before actually entering an address into the “To:” section. That way, you won’t accidentally send someone an incomplete email.

Don’t feel obligated to respond immediately.

You aren’t expected to respond instantaneously to emails. That’s what phones are for. Don’t type a hurried response while you’re in the middle of doing something else—that frequently causes you to miss details and questions that you were supposed to answer, which wastes time for both you and the recipient. Wait until you are able to direct your full attention to your response.

Don’t CC people unnecessarily.

Before you carbon copy someone on an email, think carefully about whether or not that person really needs to see it. Often, people find themselves CCed on entire threads that don’t directly involve them, which can be aggravating. The sender usually has good intent, simply trying to keep the CCed person informed, but it’s often unnecessary. If you’re resolving an issue with a group of people via email and you have a person in your company who will need to know what comes of it, can’t you just wait and update him or her separately, once the matter has been resolved?

Don’t hit “Reply All” automatically.

Just because someone included a bunch of people on an original email doesn’t mean you have to reply to all of them. Your coworkers aren’t going to assume you’re not working if you don’t include them in your response. If the sender who emailed you is guilty of CCing too many people, you can break the cycle by simply clicking “Reply.” This also goes for invitations—the entire office doesn’t need your response that you will be attending Suzy’s birthday lunch.

Don’t use vague subject lines.

People often decide whether or not to open an email (at least, at that given moment) based on the subject line. Your subject line should be direct and clearly state what the email is about. Try lines like “Meeting time changed” or “Edits for Smith Proposal.” This also helps others when searching through their inboxes or deleted folders for your emails.

Don’t use exclamation points often!

Exclamation points are overused; they should only be used in the rare sentence to convey very strong feelings or shouting. Using too many can make you look flippant and unprofessional. There’s nothing wrong with a “Thanks!” or a “Looking forward to meeting you!” at the end of your message, but you should try to avoid having more than one exclamation point in the body of your message.

Don’t use double punctuation!!!!!

When you do use exclamation points or even question marks, only use one. Using more than one exclamation point or question mark doesn’t emphasize it. It’s simply incorrect, and it makes your text look sloppy.

Don’t use humor often.

You have to be careful with humor in an email, especially when it’s in the workplace. Without facial cues and tone, humor often comes across wrong in written communication. Only use it sparingly, when you know the recipient well, and when you’re sure it can’t be interpreted incorrectly. When in doubt, leave it out.

Don’t ignore emails forever.

You should reply to all of your emails, even when you speak with someone in person about them. Many people use their inboxes as filing cabinets and reminders, and it’s useful to have things in writing. This can be as simple as a response of “As per our conversation, I reached out to this client and got this taken care of.” If the sender took the time to send you an email, it’s worth your time to respond.

Don’t discuss private matters.

We’ve all heard horror stories. Someone meant to make fun of an email to a friend, but accidentally hit “reply all” and insulted the responder. Someone sent too much information about a doctor’s appointment to the wrong Bill. While in the workplace, it’s best not to talk about anything personal over email. There are too many ways to get burned. If you want to laugh about something or share personal things with someone, it’s best to text it or to talk in person.

Don’t send an email merely to say “thanks” or “okay.”

Emails are not like phone conversations. You don’t need to say anything if it doesn’t further the conversation. Refrain from cluttering people’s inboxes with emails that simply say “Great!”

Don’t be afraid to write “no response necessary.”

There are some kind-hearted souls out there who, no matter what I say in this post, will feel as though they are ignoring someone if they don’t send a reply. If you’re sending out an email and you don’t expect or need responses, add “no response necessary,” so you can free these types from the guilt they might feel if they don’t respond. It will save time for all parties involved.

Don’t name your attachment “image” or “final_doc_version2_3_c.”

When you send attachments, sometimes you need to rename them. The naming structure you use on your computer might not make sense to the person you’re emailing. Label all attachments clearly, with names like “Sample_Office_Design_August2016” or “Smith_Proposal_Bobs_Edits_28-August.” Make sure you rename files that you have edited, rather than sending them back with the same file names as earlier editions. Your recipients should be able to refer back to your email attachments and know exactly what they are.

Don’t forget your signature line with your contact information.

This is good practice for any emails you send, but it’s especially important to include your signature line in all of your workplace emails. First, it makes you look more professional, and second, it ensures people don’t have to dig through previous emails to find your phone number or another way to contact you.

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