Think of e-mail as a permanent record, just like a paper memo. Remember that it is also not private. Despite their perceived disposability, e-mail messages should be kept official and professional:
- Start with a salutation; don’t just launch into your message.
- Include a relevant subject line, but keep it brief. This will make them much easier for the recipient to find later.
- Gauge the formality of your salutation by what you would use in paper correspondence (“Dear Ms. Robertson” vs. “Hi Donna!”).
- Be concise.
- Separate paragraphs with a full line instead of an indentation.
- Don’t use all caps, UNLESS YOU INTEND TO SHOUT.
- Save your “smiley” for personal notes.
- Don’t emphasize your point with extraneous punctuation such as exclamation points.
- Don’t overuse abbreviations or acronyms. It really doesn’t take much longer to type out “by the way.”
- Use humor carefully (it doesn’t translate well unless the person has known you for a while)
- Do not forward jokes or other chain mail. Not because the jokes may be bad, but because in many instance this can be construed as a virus “Portal”.
- When replying, be careful not to use the “reply all” function unintentionally. Beware: some e-mail programs will “reply to all” automatically.
- Reread your messages before hitting the send button. You’ll usually find something to correct; a grammatical error or a missing word. This is also a good time to revisit the tone of the message (see below).
- Always, always, always use the spell check tool.
- Choose your words carefully
- We’ve all sent an e-mail or two that we wish we could take back as soon as it was sent. Whether you’re angry with a co-worker or thrilled about a sales prospect, don’t fire your e-mail off right away. Use your “queue” function, which lines up your messages but doesn’t send them. This creates one last opportunity to be sure that what you’ve said is appropriate, before it’s unleashed upon a colleague or customer.
- Remember: Humans also use facial expression, oral inflection, and body language to communicate. E-mail is many things — easy, efficient, and immediate — but it lacks the more human elements of communication. Make sure you aren’t sending something that the reader might misinterpret.
- favor clarity over complication
- Don’t send HTML- or AOL-based text unless you’re sure the recipient can support it.
- Respond to an e-mail by pasting enough of the original message into your response to indicate the issue at hand. If the message was long, just use the relevant section(s). Most e-mail programs have a setting that automatically includes the original message in a reply.
- Send an attachment only if the recipient expects and can open it. If you’re not sure, ask first.
- While the pace of communication accelerates, it is tempting to impulsively type what comes to mind and send it off. But taking this casual approach to serious business matters could cause you to communicate ideas and attitudes that confuse (or worse, offend) your co-workers and clients. Taking a few moments to carefully draft your messages will project the right image; that of someone with a deliberate and accurate business sense.
Signatures: Using a pre-programmed signature conveniently communicates all your vital stats without having to constantly re-key them (and with no risk of misspellings or transposed numbers). Leave no extra lines between the closing salutation and your name, unless you have the capability of inserting your actual signature. People usually include their full name, title, and organization name. You may also add contact information or a short promotional line or motto. To program a signature, look under the “Tools” command in your toolbar. Keep in mind that your extensive signature might look a little out of place when sending a short message to a close friend, so you may want disable the signature in these cases. For example:
“Great! I’ll see you tonight at 8.
111 First Ave., Suite 111
“First in service.”