As Version 2.0 Communications celebrates its 10th anniversary all year, we’re highlighting a few of our favorite things – all in packages of ten. For more details on our anniversary, click here.
In the age of constant connectivity, communications and public relations professionals have more avenues than ever to get their messages heard. The preferred medium, and perhaps the most pervasive in our daily lives, is email. According to estimates by Lifewire, the average office worker receives 121 emails a day (journalists: please feel free to laugh aloud, as we understand this figure probably pales in comparison to your inboxes). Those same approximations mean that in a typical day, about 269 billion emails are bounced back and forth between the roughly 3.7 billion email users globally, and puts us on track to record nearly 74 trillion emails in 2017. To picture it, if you were to convert each of those emails into a standard postcard – which is about 5 inches in length – and then line them up end-to-end, the yearly forecast for emails sent could wrap around the circumference of the earth more than 234,500 times!
Reading and responding to emails account for a sizable portion of the typical V2er’s work day – whether it’s updating a client about the account team’s activity or circulating interesting industry news amongst ourselves. Knowing how to compose a clear, concise and polished email is something that we all strive for. That’s because beyond presenting our best selves and the best representation of the organizations we work with, we probably all have an embarrassing email error that still haunts us to this day (Hillary, you’re not alone). It could be a silly spelling mistake, or inadvertently choosing to “Reply All.” The fact of the matter is that 100 percent perfection 100 percent of the time is impossible. Fortunately, there are ways to improve the odds of coming as close to perfection as possible.
After polling the office and scouring the web, we came up with our 10 favorite tips and pieces of advice for practicing better email etiquette:
1 – Use a clear and inviting subject line that matches the content of the email
It’s likely that the recipient of your email will make a split-second decision as to whether or not they open your email or file it away in junk, based solely on the subject line. Take the time to come up with an accurate description of what you’re contacting them about, and get creative if you need to. Make the subject line a call to action that compels the recipient to read further.
2 – Remove jargon, humor and sarcasm from your copy
The old adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it,” is a great rule of thumb in drafting an email. Do not assume that your note will be interpreted the exact way you’re writing it, so tone and word choice should always be respectful and professional, regardless of who’s on the receiving end of it.
3 – Avoid overusing exclamation points – including the “High Importance” button
While you might be really excited to deliver news of a stellar media placement or massive uptick in social media followers, using too many exclamation points in an email is distracting and alarming. Use the “High Importance” option on emails sparingly, which in most cases, are messages better-suited for a phone call or face-to-face meeting anyway.
4 – Always include a professional salutation and signature
Whether you’re sending an email to a co-worker or a correspondent at a national business daily, including a formal salutation and signature will convey respect and a sense of professionalism. You wouldn’t call someone and neglect to introduce yourself and then hang up as soon as the conversation was over. Email signatures also give the person you’re exchanging with a way to reach you in the future, whether that’s via social media accounts, a personal website or by phone.
5 – Respond in a timely matter
Email overload happens, but no matter how big your back log grows, be considerate about the emails you receive and respond in a timely manner. If you cannot immediately satisfy a request, it’s always better to acknowledge receipt and explain when you will be able to get back, rather than leave the sender waiting for days on end.
6 – Be thoughtful about who you’re sending the message to, and add in the email address(es) last
Think twice before hitting “Reply All,” ensure that silent participants are kept on blind copy and double check that all email addresses are correct in the first place. Especially when you’re in a rush, it’s a good habit to plug in email addresses last in case of an accidental and premature send off.
7 – Streamline the layout and format your message for the digital age
Not all emails are read on a desktop computer or a laptop. With more and more people using mobile devices and tablets to check their email, think about how your message looks on a small screen – would it be easy to read? If the answer is no, find a way to simplify it and make it more easily absorbed.
8 – Double check your message for spelling and grammatical errors
Once you feel that your email is perfect, re-read it to yourself to check for typos and other errors, such as broken hyperlinks. Then, if time allows, re-read it once more. Spell check doesn’t catch everything, so taking the extra minute to ensure your work is at its best will be worth it.
9 – Know which topics are not appropriately communicated on email
In delivering important news or feedback, whether it’s good or bad, take a moment to consider whether the update would be best shared aloud in real time. Face-to-face or phone conversations allow for a faster, easier exchange and email isn’t designed to communicate all updates.
10 – What lives in email can live forever
Never write or send an email that you wouldn’t want broadcast publicly. “Unsend” email capabilities do exist, but shouldn’t be considered a reliable safety net. Emails create a paperless paper-trail traced right back to you, so don’t send an email you wouldn’t want people to know you authored.
Did we miss any important email etiquette tips or tricks? Let us know in the comments below!