Emails have become an inevitable part of the modern workplace. Providers and office staff open their inboxes each morning to a new wave of emails on topics ranging from mundane work tasks and important documents to recent local news and press releases. Through this barrage of communications, it may be easy to become nonchalant in your responses, especially to coworkers and employees. However, your emails can have a strong impact on the efficiency of your work and your image as a leader. To help you save time and face in your email interactions, here are a few helpful tips for keeping your emails professional.
1. Use a clear subject line
A subject line is like the title of a book, the better the title, the more likely your recipients are to open it and read. However, unlike some books titles, subject lines with your coworkers should not be mysterious (e.g. “Have you heard the news?”) or screaming with ALL CAPS (e.g. READ ME RIGHT NOW!!!). The subject line should be clearly and directly state what your email covers. Since 50% of emails are read from the small screens of smartphones, keep the subject short (6–8 words should be sufficient) so that it can fit on a mobile screen. Don’t use filler words like “hello” or “thanks,” and if you need a reply, make that clear by saying “Please reply” or “Please reply by EOD Wednesday.” Clear subjects get more opens and help recipients to prioritize and organize your message with the other hundred they received that day.
2. Use classic fonts
There is a time and place for every font, but while Comic Sans may be appropriate for a party invitation, it is not appropriate for a work email. ‘Fun’ fonts may add personality, but they also suggest a lack of professionalism. Stick to classic fonts like Calibri or Times New Roman which are easy to read and won’t distract from your message.
3. Review your email before you hit send
Though your ideas are intelligent, if you make a grammar mistake in an email, you may give the impression that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Writing, “Please take you’re report to my office” will not impress your employees and will distract from what you’re trying to say. While autocorrect will typically save you from these errors, it is not foolproof, and even if you’re in a rush, it’s worth glancing through each email to verify that there aren’t any mistakes.
4. Add your recipient at the end
To make sure that you don’t embarrass yourself by accidentally sending an email to the wrong person, add your recipient’s email at the end. This gives you a moment to review your email and attachments before you hit send.
5. Avoid using ‘Reply All’
Though ‘Reply All’ may be used more frequently by accident than on purpose, it has gained its poor reputation for a reason. ‘Reply All’ emails, which far too frequently consist of brief “thanks” or “congrats” messages to coworkers, irritate recipients and waste time. Only use ‘Reply All’ if you’re certain that everyone in the message needs to hear what you have to say.
6. Set a response time
Many business owners are bombarded with a seemingly endless flow of emails throughout the day, and while you need to respond to most of them, they shouldn’t always be your priority. Constantly checking and responding to emails breaks work flow and distracts from other important tasks. To avoid this, determine a response time (e.g. to always respond within 24 hours) and stick with it. Then set specific time frames during the day in which you’ll respond to emails. Prioritize emails that need to be answered within your determined response time, and be strict in following your schedule. You’ll find that you’re able to respond promptly to messages but not be overwhelmed by them throughout the day.
7. Be selective with your recipient list
Including coworkers in an email that doesn’t concern them, is the digital equivalent of walking into their office to have a conversation that they’re not included in. It wastes their time and will probably confuse them. As you determine the audience of your emails, use the TO field only for people who are required to act/respond/etc. Other people who need the information but are not required to act, should be included as CC, though CCs should also be limited. Reading emails is a distraction and if someone does not need to see information or contribute to a conversation, it’s best to save them time by leaving them out.
8. Recognize when email isn’t productive
Though it has become the norm to send emails for most questions and regular workday communications, it’s important not to over-communicate through email. You should always ask, “Is this really necessary?” before you send an email, and sensitive information or bad news should be communicated in person. Additionally, when you’re part of an email conversation and it isn’t proving to be productive, don’t hesitate to give the other person a call or stop by their office for clearer and potentially quicker communication. Though email may seem to be the simplest means of communication, it is not always the most efficient.
According to Bloomberg Business, at least 15% of the typical office worker’s day is spent on email. In business, where time is often equivalent to money, it’s important to use your email communication effectively to save time and build a personal image of professionalism and competence.