Do I have to?
How many times have you received an email and thought to yourself, 'No. I can't. Not right now'? Days or weeks later, as you are browsing through your inbox, you come across the email and realize that you are still yet to respond. You roll your eyes, dreading the thought of having to do so, and with much effort, you unwillingly write two lines, making an attempt not to be perceived as rude, harsh or unpleasant.
What could have invoked such a response? And if you were the writer of that email, what do you think was responsible for this kind of reaction by your supervisor, lecturer, co-worker or business associate? How could the reply you received a week, two weeks or a month later have been better skewed in your favor?
You may be thinking, 'She hates her job. He was too lazy to respond. He was busy at the time'. There are a myriad of reasons you could think of, but the true answer may be just one... a failure to conform to the etiquette of writing an email. Overthinking? Over-reaching? Not quite. Online communication could be drastically improved if these simple guidelines are followed:
1. Never omit the subject
The subject of an email highlights the focus of the message. It provides the recipients with a synopsis of the email and prepares them for the finer details. Recipients will be more inclined to view the message in its entirety if they are briefed prior to making such a 'commitment'. By highlighting the focus, prompt attention is also more likely to be given to urgent matters.
2. Never send an attachment without a message
Many college students are guilty of this, and the corporate world too! Often, an assignment is submitted without any reference being made to the attached document. There is no subject, no greeting and no message. This is unacceptable at all levels: the academic level, the corporate level and the personal level. It is a habit many find distasteful, and it is often frowned upon. It is a guarantee that in many instances, such an email stands no chance of being attended to. The attachment may even be viewed as a potential risk, a virus. The lack of formality with which the document is sent also downplays its importance, and the sender is not likely to be taken seriously.
3. Always start with a greeting
An email is no different from a letter. Actually, it is a letter that is being sent via an electronic medium. Why should the same rules therefore not apply? An email with no salutation/greeting may portray the sender as being rude, disrespectful, discourteous or lacking business etiquette. The salutation provides you with the opportunity to acknowledge the recipient. Dear Paul. Address the individual to whom you are writing; this gives you the attention you require and makes the recipient more inclined to read further. The message becomes a personal one, directed at the recipient. The salutation says, You have my regard and I am in need of your attention. Simple considerations such as these could lead to the fostering of good business relationships. In academia, the student who sends an email that greets the professor, then outlines the purpose of the email is more likely to receive positive feedback in a shorter time.
4. Beware of text language
In the age of technology and social media, a great asset has potentially become a powerful adversary. We are always in a rush to move on to the next 'big' thing that needs our attention, that we don't take the time to carefully word our messages. The shorthand way of conveying a message, which made sense when we had to do so with a limited number of characters in a text message, has speedily made its way into formal discourse. 'Thank u 4 meeting with me 2day. I will call 2 follow up l8r' should no credible business associate who wants to strike a business deal type. Your email represents your image and that of your company. Proofread 'ur' email correspondences to ensure that none of these unflattering shortenings slip by.
5. Proofread and edit
Errors of grammar, misspellings and incorrect use of punctuation and capitalization are not only unsightly, but they too hinder communication by detracting from the content of your email. Instead of focusing on the message being conveyed, the reader naturally gets caught up with the errors included therein. The sender is now not judged by his/her knowledgeable mind or by reputation. Rather, the intelligence of the sender is taken to be sub-par, simply because of mistakes that could have been corrected through the process of proofreading and editing. This is why the proofreading and editing processes are as important as the crafting of the message and should be done and redone prior to hitting that 'send' button. Persons who are aware of the importance of this step often entrust language and communication companies such as LingScript to ensure that their business correspondence is error-free and that the ideas they contain are expressed with clarity.
6. No emoticons
Emoticons are a distraction, and will not only detract from the content of the message but from the formality of the correspondence as well. Reserve emoticons for informal communication with friends and family. They have no place in business discourse.
7. End with a closing
Ending with a closing such as 'Best regards' or 'Sincerely' conveys respect for the recipient. Its inclusion could result in a more favorable outcome, as it demonstrates your regard for the person to whom you are writing. The closing represents your last opportunity to make a good impression, and if done correctly, it may leave a lasting one too.
Writing an email is a task that should never be taken slightly, especially when the purpose of that email is to illicit a response or evoke an action that will be in your favor. Special email etiquette considerations ought to be given to email marketing campaigns, correspondences between business associates and business partners, as well as between graduate students and their supervisors. Content writing, formatting, proofreading, and editing are critical in these instances, and may often require professional assistance. The investment is often worth the return.