Leadership & Communication

Getting to grips with email communication

19 Aug 2013, by Informa Australia

Whatever industry you work in, email communication is likely to be a part of the job, making it vital you brush up on your etiquette when sending messages.

This is particularly true if you are in a leadership position, as no matter how good you are at conveying information in person, you won’t always have the opportunity to speak to people face to face.

Having negotiating skills via online communication can help you to enforce processes, instigate change and motivate employees more easily. Here are some top tips to writing better emails.

AVOID CAPITALS

One mistake many people make is to pepper their emails with capitalised words or, even worse, write the whole message in uppercase.

This not only makes emails harder to read, it gives the impression you are shouting at the recipient.

Instead, only use capitals sparingly for effect. The same goes for bolding and underlining.

Be careful with humour

Humour is much more difficult to perceive through email than if someone is standing in front of you.

Body language cues such as voice inflection, facial expressions and hand gestures can all convey the fact that you are joking, but none of these can be expressed online.

An off-the-cuff quip could come across as rude or offensive, especially sarcasm – which some people even find hard to pick up in person!

Make it easy on readers

Nobody likes to be met with a solid wall of text when they open an email, so be creative in breaking up your messages into easily digestible chunks.

Try bullet points to summarise information or create subheadings to draw attention to certain issues.

Also, don’t bunch your paragraphs together. One or two sentences should be the limit before thinking about a line break.

Use formality appropriately

One of the more challenging aspects of email communication can be deciding on how formal to be with the recipient.

While inter-office emails are expected to be fairly informal, this level of familiarity may not come across well with a new client.

At the same time, you won’t want to appear too stuffy and rigid.

A good starting point is to remain fairly formal in your first emails to a new correspondent, and then gauge their response and adjust accordingly.

Choose a good subject heading

All too often, people send emails with poor subject headings or even leave the field blank.

This not only makes it more difficult to find and store your emails, it could mean your message gets skipped over in favour of more important looking ones.

You can even agree on office-wide acronyms to ensure people know exactly what the email contains, such as [UN] for ‘update needed’ or [AR] for ‘action required’.

Don’t be sloppy with spelling

Sloppy emails not only undermine your authority within the workplace, they look unprofessional to external clients, customers and suppliers.

Good spelling, punctuation and grammar ensure your messages are clear and easily understood, leaving less room for misinterpretation.

Most email clients have a spelling and grammar check, so be sure to use it before clicking send.

To BCC or not to BCC

Deciding on who to copy into messages is important, as you want to keep the necessary people in the loop but you don’t want to clutter up inboxes.

If you’re sending a bulk email to lots of recipients, you may want to use the BCC function so that they don’t end up with a long list of email addresses and names when they open the message.

However, use the copy function judiciously – it may be better to just reply to a single correspondent if the email chain goes off on a tangent.

Want  to improve your written communication skills. Register your interest for a written communications masterclass.

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