5 Best Practices to Email at Work Like a Pro
(By Tabinda Tariq)
Should it even be an email? If your email exceeds four to five lines, it should probably be a conversation. Complex ideas, sentiments, and tone don’t travel well in an email, so use conversations to win people over, introduce or discuss complex subjects or ideas, and to build relationships in your environment. If you still feel an email is needed, go ahead and use it to summarize the conversation.
Keep it brief. Let’s face it, most workplace emails are meant to be quick exchanges – meaning information is flowing both ways. But if your email is long and difficult to read, especially on mobile, chances are it’ll stay in the Unread folder, or get opened and “pinned for later” – and we all know, later means Emails that are short and to-the-point are more likely to be read and answered faster in comparison to longer emails.
Stick to one topic. The average professional can send 50 or more emails in a single workday, making it easy to want to cram as much as possible into each one. But just like multi-tasking, it doesn’t work. The more focused your email is, the more likely the receiver is to not only read it, but to reply right away. It’s also best to avoid introducing new or different topics into an ongoing email string – it takes away from the current conversation and could lead to the reader(s) missing information. This will also help you keep your inbox organized and clutter-free.
Who’s on the To line? Many people sort or organize their inbox based on the sender, the received date, or the subject. Many people go further and highlight emails that are sent directly to them, to be read or actioned as a priority, so they can keep their inbox under control. Including several people on the “To” line without clearly indicating why can cause confusion and inaction because it may not be immediately clear to whom the email is really addressed. The only person(s) on the “To” line should be the people that are being addressed directly in the content of your email, the one(s) who need the information or need to take action. Anyone included for visibility should be on the “CC” (or Carbon Copy) line. And never use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) when sending business emails – while it may save you from the Reply All chain that usually follows, it can create confusion, suspicion or conflict within the workplace. If the information should not be shared with everyone, then send it only to the people who need to see it. If you do choose to BCC someone, it’s a good practice to alert them so they don’t hit Reply All and give you away.
Don’t write the whole email in the Subject. While we want to share as much “relevant” information in email subjects, hoping that will lead to our emails being read and replied to more quickly, the reality is that most email programs restrict the number of characters visible in the average view reserved for emails. Stick to what is vital – depending on your role, and remove any unnecessary punctuation, characters, or spaces.