To whom it may concern: Emails and email etiquette is hard.
Should you always be formal with your correspondence? Can an emoji be thrown in there? What about using “Kind Regards” (ugh) or “Cheers!”?
Depending on where you’re working and who you’re talking to, the answer varies. Given the new normal of working from home, email has become increasingly important for day-to-day professional communication. An appropriately crafted email can make the difference between mutually-respected communication or confusion and poor taste.
I’ll share with you some basic dos and don’ts that I’ve learned throughout my career that you can use in your own email correspondences.
1. Please, stop being sorry.
Your email is flooded… like all.the.time. You missed an important email 5 days ago and are eager to respond as soon as possible. You start typing…
“Sorry for the delay.”
STOP. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
Stop being sorry for normal email occurrences. This phrase often leads to the person on the other end viewing you as fearful or lacking confidence.
Instead, try saying something like: “Thanks for your patience…” and continue on with responding to the content of the email.
2. OMG, no worries!!
Typically when you receive gratitude in emails, it’s tempting to say phrases like “no problem” or “no worries!!” These phrases should be avoided as they make it seem like the task you performed or the help you provided wasn’t a big deal or belittles the work you did. Instead, try saying, “Always happy to help!” This phrase makes you appear at-the-ready to assist with your expertise.
3. Responding to Mistakes
So you sent the final file and your coworker responds with a spelling mistake.
DO NOT PANIC. Emotional responses like “Sorry! My Bad! I totally missed that!” comes off as immature or inexperienced.
Take a deep breath, fix the mistake in your file and attach it to your response email with a note like, “Good catch! The updated file attached. Thanks for letting me know!”
4. Condescending Comments Not Allowed
If there’s one thing I really hate in email communication, it’s condescending comments that belittle my experience and talents. And I’ll be completely honest, learning to NOT use condescending comments comes with experience.
Back in the day when I first started hiring my interns or working with young students, I’d maybe close with a phrase like “Does that make sense?” Which – full disclosure – was more about my lack of confidence in giving direction and delegated than had anything to do with who I was talking to. However – I learned first hand how incredible demeaning that can sound coming from a superior.
Instead, close your email with: “Let me know if you have any questions.” That way you accomplish a few things: expressing confidence in your direction, letting your recipient know that you trust them to understand your direction, but you are also leaving yourself approachable in case there is any confusion or misunderstanding.
5. Take time instead of giving time.
“What works best for you?” Instead of being so accommodating all the time, try to ask for a specific day and time to meet. This way you have some control over your schedule
Note: There is an exception for this one.
Thinking back to when I was a college student, I used this phrase a lot, especially when finding time to meet and learn from mentors and industry professionals. I feel if you are a student asking to borrow time from a working professional, this is an appropriate way to ask for meeting time. You are the one who likely has a more flexible schedule.
6. You don’t need a doctors note…
Now, depending on where you work, this one can be tricky to work around. However, I believe that asking for permission, like, “Do you mind if I leave early?” to leave the office for, say, an annual doctor appointment is silly. Everyone needs to go to an annual check-up, and it’s okay to just let your superiors or HR know that you need to leave.
If you need to make up the extra hour, then do that, but there’s no reason you need to “ask for permission.” You’re an adult and you “...will need to leave for an appointment at _ : _ _ on Friday.”
Well? That wasn’t so bad. Try out some of these email swaps and see how it elevates your email communications.