Work emails are often a big part of people’s jobs, no matter the industry you work in. In fact, a McKinsey survey found that professionals spend about 28% of their working hours reading and responding to emails – more than a quarter of their day!
But no matter how busy you are, it doesn’t mean that you can skimp on your etiquette when it comes to handling emails. In fact, knowing how to plan, write, and respond to emails can make your life so much easier.
The importance of etiquette
But what makes email etiquette so crucial in the workplace? For the most part, it boils down to being professional. The way you correspond with others, whether that includes other colleagues, your supervisor or clients, will be a reflection of not just yourself as an employee but also the company you represent.
By being mindful of how you send and receive your emails, it’ll not only make communication much easier, but also help you avoid landing your company (and yourself!) in hot water.
Guidelines to adopt
With the benefits in mind, here are a few guidelines you should take note of when typing up that important email:
Keep a clear subject line
Your recipient's inboxes can get rather cluttered quickly, so it can be easy for your email to get lost in the pile if your email’s subject is vague or worse, completely blank. Considering that 47% of email recipients open them based on the subject line alone, aim for a clear and concise title. The recipient should be able to know exactly what to expect from your email just from a glance.
For example, if you’re sending over a new finance report to your supervisor, be sure to label the subject head with something like “Finance Report 2023”.
Keep it short and sweet
Nobody wants to open an email to a huge wall of text, and it’s unlikely they even have the time (or patience) to wade through all that, considering that the average employee gets about 121 emails per day. That’s why when it comes to writing emails, the less you write, the better.
Be upfront about your email’s purpose from the very beginning, and be as concise as possible while including all the important details and context they’ll need to understand it. After all, the quicker they get what’s going on, the more likely they’ll respond back sooner.
Mind your tone
Without cues like facial expressions and body language, you’ll need to ensure that your recipient isn’t just able to understand your message, but also what you mean. With this in mind, you’ll have to put in extra effort to stay professional through text, such as being mindful of your word choices and phrases.
For example, use positive-sounding words like ‘benefit’ and ‘improvement’ – by framing your email positively, you’ll likely receive a more positive reply from your recipient as well.
Proofread, proofread, proofread
Having the occasional grammatical hiccup might be acceptable now and then, but getting an email absolutely riddled with typos and errors is a recipe for a poor impression. So before you hit that send button, give your email a thorough check, including the subject head. It also doesn’t hurt to have a fellow colleague give your email a once-over, too.
It would be ideal to respond to any given email as soon as possible, but reality often leaves us busier than we’d like. So depending on who’s sending the email and how important their contents are, it’s up to you to decide on their priority.
For example, while the general rule of thumb is to give a reply within 24 hours of receiving an email, you’d probably want to respond to messages from your colleagues a little more promptly, while urgent matters should be prioritised. For those that you can only get back to later, you can send over a quick reply acknowledging it, and let them know you’ll get back to them within the next few days.
Emails are a great way to build relationships, whether it’s with potential clients, existing stakeholders or with colleagues, so it’s important that you know how to use it efficiently. While the way you’ll structure them can depend from recipient to recipient, the main points to remember are stay polite, professional and precise!