Email has become the default communication tool for many businesses. But it can present all manner of pitfalls, from bad impressions created by sloppy grammar to problems caused by hitting ‘Send’ before thinking your message through. Here are ten tips to help you use email more effectively:
- Keep your message brief. It’s more difficult to read from a computer screen than from a printed document, so use short paragraphs and bullet points to break up text and highlight key points. Use a clear title in the ‘Subject’ line and don’t resort to capital letters for emphasis – this will appear bossy.
- Know your audience. Corresponding with customers probably requires a more formal tone than emailing colleagues. If in doubt, avoid using over-familiar terms of address, and steer clear of email-speak and symbols that look like facial expressions – both will make you seem lightweight.
- Don’t forget to proof-read. Emails with spelling mistakes or lazy grammar make your business look slapdash, and bad punctuation can make messages difficult to read. Re-reading as if you are the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings.
- Avoid sending unnecessary attachments. These tend to annoy recipients and clog up inboxes. If you have a lot of files to send, compress or ‘zip’ them. Avoid passing on viruses by making sure you have up-to-date security software.
- Respond swiftly. With important mail, send a brief acknowledgment ahead of a full response. Avoid flagging your own mail as ‘Urgent’ or requesting ‘Read’ receipts unless absolutely necessary.
- Stop and think before you press ‘Send’. Never send an email in anger and don’t send anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing published – emails do not always end up where you intend them to go. Remember, it may be more appropriate to speak on the phone or in person.
- Don’t pass on junk mail. Chain letters, emails promising good fortune or just plain old spam are unlikely to be welcomed so it’s best just to delete them.
- Blind copy with care. Try not to get into the habit of concealing recipients from one another for deceptive reasons using the ‘blind copy’ (bcc) facility – it is underhand and could harm your business relationships. On the other hand, use of blind copy is courteous if you are sending a message to a number of people who don’t know each other and would appreciate having their email addresses kept private.
- Use a clear, concise signature. Record your name, job title, company address, website and contact details at the bottom of your emails to look serious and professional. Keep layout simple and don’t use fancy fonts, colours or graphics – these can slow emails down and they will make you and your employees look like you can’t be taken seriously.
- Consider a disclaimer. Adding a disclaimer to the end of your emails may protect your business from liability if your employees make defamatory statements in messages.
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