The emails you send at work are like any other professional documents. They reflect your professionalism and competence, and when you send them you lose all control over who sees them and how they’re used and interpreted. So before hitting ‘Send,’ read these email tips.
1. If you need a response, send the email to one person at a time
Sending an email to six recipients and asking for help almost ensures you won’t get any. Each recipient will see five other names on the email and assume someone else will step up. Instead, send your request to a single coworker. If you need to do this a few times to find someone who will help you, so be it.
2. Limit each email to one issue or idea
Have you ever received an email asking for a copy of the new expense form, and also asking what you think of HR’s updated vacation policy, and ending with a question about whether you’re going to the task-force meeting Monday? These emails are annoying because they force you to figure out how to answer all of the totally unrelated points and questions in your response. Give each email you write a single thing to accomplish. Your emails will get answered much more quickly, and your professional reputation will increase too.
3. Change the subject
Sometimes in a long back-and-forth email chain, you and your recipient will change topics. When that happens, it’s time to change the subject line—especially if you’re the one who introduced the new topic. This keeps the email conversation clear and will also help you and your reader find the email in the future. If you’ve written a clear and logical new subject line—”New vacation policy”—you might be able to find it a year later. But not if you left the email subject as “re: re: re: birthday cake in the conference room!”
4. If you wouldn’t say it in a staff meeting, don’t put it in email.
Email, like any document you write and share with even one coworker, is public and permanent. It’s public because as soon as you send it, it’s no longer yours. It could go anywhere, to anybody, at anytime. It’s permanent because your recipients—and the people they forward it to, and the people they forward it to—own it forever. Thinking of including a funny insult about your supervisor in an email to a friendly colleague? Re-think that.
5. Easy on the LOL!
It takes so little effort to send an email that we tend to think of it as less important, more disposable, than other forms of writing. But remember: your work email is a professional document that reflects on your reputation—and it can end up anywhere. What if you include a great idea in an email and a colleague prints it out and puts it on an executive’s desk? Do you want the executive to see that you’ve written “wut do u thk of this craaaazy idea?” or “OMG!” or your frequent use of ““? Still think you can put less thought into your professional emails than into your other documents? LOL!