These days more and more of our interactions are written out, whether in emails, instant messaging, or text messaging. Since we find ourselves writing more and more, it’s tempting to find ways to cut corners in an attempt to get more done. But at what cost? All communications of any kind fundamentally exist to do only one thing: serve the relationship. Sure, your only logistical need might be transferring knowledge or asking for information, but when it comes to person-to-person interactions, none would exist if it wasn’t for the relationship that carries the intention and purpose. When we focus more on what we have to accomplish instead of on the people we rely on to accomplish it, we start to sacrifice the quality of those relationships. This not only leads to being less effective as a team member, but also to less job satisfaction and productivity. All of which lead to less job security.
We’re not saying that by not being polite in your emails you’re risking your job. But wouldn’t you rather work with someone you like than someone who’s hard to work with? Your email recipients feel the same way. Keep these tips close in mind as you work. A little extra care in the moment can go a long way to make your job life even better!
Leave the stationary for personal emails
Use classic fonts that are easier to read and if you must use stationery, only use a simple theme that addresses the fundamentals like font size and type. It might seem like good branding or creative to use a colored background or text but remember that you don’t know what your recipient’s default settings. When they respond to your email or forward it along, you could be making their action much more difficult by throwing in unnecessary formatting.
If your intention is to stand out, don’t do it by making your message hard to read or complicating the recipient’s work. Try using more interesting (but relevant) subject lines or put your main point/ask in bold or italicized font.
Cc vs Bcc – use them correctly
The main difference between Cc (carbon or courtesy copy) and Bcc (blind carbon or courtesy copy) is that the recipients of the email can see any email address listed in the Cc field, but only the email address that’s listed in the Bcc field can see their own email address. Basically, Bcc emails are hidden. Many people regard the recipient lines with the following intention:
To – person who has an action in or related to the email
Cc – person who is affected by it but does not have any action resulting from the email
Bcc – person who should have the content of that specific email as ‘FYI’ only
One more important distinction of Bcc is that any replies or forwards based on it will not include the Bcc email address automatically. It must be manually entered each time. This can be very useful when you’d like someone in the ‘To’ or ‘Cc’ group to leave the email thread but be aware that the conversation is continuing. So let’s say if you like to remove John from a thread that you are continuing to reply to, just move his email from the ‘To’ or ‘Cc’ line and include him as a Bcc. Then add a note in the email to the effect of “Moving John to Bcc so he drops off.” That way everyone is aware of the recipients moving forward and John understands your intention.
Use the subject line wisely
Any marketer will tell you that you only have 2.5 seconds to capture someone’s attention. That’s because people are busy, especially at work. Be considerate of others’ time by being intentional and specific in your subject line. It should exactly the topic or ask so someone scanning their email the next day can easily see what it’s about and prioritize it. Being vague or cute is asking someone to do more work since they have to open and scrutinize your email before understanding what it’s about.
Keep your topics separate
This is woefully ignored by hyper-busy people. But what they don’t understand is that they’re actually making their lives and the lives of their recipients harder (and busier) by doing so. If you’re about to write something in an email body that does not relate to the subject line (no matter who wrote it), start another email. This makes it much easier for everyone included to sort, organize, and search for it later. It also minimizes important information from being overlooked or skipped since it’s out of context.
Ditch the delivery and read receipts
It’s rare that someone actually appreciates their email activities being tracked, so don’t put that pressure on your recipients. If you use your subject line wisely, then you can trust your recipients to open and read the email when appropriate. Of course, this doesn’t take into account HR needs, but it’s generally considered impolite to micro-manage your recipient’s interactions. No matter how quickly the deadline is approaching.
Jr High wasn’t wrong – spelling and grammar count
Have you ever received an email from someone who you didn’t know that was riddled with spelling mistakes and used bad grammar? It’s like they deliberately turned their review tools off. It’s hard not to form an opinion about their intelligence level and their attention to detail (two things that are wildly important in business). Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your recipient isn’t paying attention to basic writing skills. On top of the fact that mistakes like these slow down a reader’s comprehension, you’re also making a bad impression. Make sure all of your review tools, like spell check, are on and that you take a moment to correct any errors found before you send the email.
Use exclamation points sparingly
Mark Twain said it best: “One should never use exclamation points in writing. It’s like laughing at your own joke.” Though we’d argue that are definitely cases for using it, overuse (like more than one per email) can appear as though you’re too emotional or immature in communications. Which can certainly imply that your personality is the same way. A good rule of thumb is to only use exclamations when communicating with someone who knows you and your intention when communicating (like a sense of fun or excitement). Remember that people “hear” written words in their head differently. Which brings us to the next important and often ignored point.
Watch your tone
Remember that you’re losing all of the verbal and visual cues that we rely on to convey intention and mood. Taking the half-second to include “please” and “thank you” go a long way to let your recipient know that you’re not demanding them. Likewise, take another a few seconds to add more than just two words (even when only two words will get your meaning across). Email responses with only a few words can come across as curt or even snippy (because someone speaking to you that way would come off as such). And they unconsciously tell the recipient that the matter isn’t worth much of your time. Keep the relationship with the recipient as the priority by taking a moment to consider how you would talk to them if you were in person, then consciously adding that intention into your writing.
Be clear about what you want them to do (or if it’s FYI)
Remember that nothing is confidential. Be careful not to complain about a coworker or your job in an email. These days there are a million easy ways for a manager or employer to read through any employee’s correspondence. Keep any opinions that can be construed as unhelpful out of your emails and wait until you can vent on the phone or in person. We all need to blow off some steam now and then, but do it less concrete manner than writing it down.
Hailing back to grammar and tone, this step is of higher importance for emails that are directed outside of your company and for emails that contain a lot or high priority information. Your review tools can only catch so much, and sometimes spell check can suddenly turn manner into manager which can change the meaning altogether. Throw a little human intelligence in there (and communicate it, too!) by scanning your email to make sure it conveys exactly what you want to say and that room for interpretation is marginalized.
Make sure your tools are working for you
We help clients make the most of their email applications all the time. From ensuring your mailbox is properly set up to changing your review tool settings, we can help you get all of the value out of your business email. Contact us if you’re interested in superior email solutions and end user support. A quick conversation can make it easy to understand what life could be like for you and your staff.