As often as you use email you should make sure that you are presenting your message in a clear and professional manner. Your email says a lot about yourself.
Here are some areas you should pay attention to when creating or reply to an email.
1. Your Spelling
You would think this would be obvious. Use the spell check if it is in your email client. Check your email client options to see if the email can be automatically checked for spelling before it is sent, just in case you forget. Nothing says unprofessional like an email with spelling mistakes.
2. Your Grammar
Is your email grammatically correct? Check for proper grammar, misused words and punctuation. This will make sure your message is not misinterpreted by the reader. Along this line, if this email comes from someone who works for you and has spelling or grammatical errors you should coach them on the subject. Email from direct reports or team members also reflect on you.
3. Your Subject Line
The subject line has a purpose. It is meant to instantly communicate to the reader what the email is about. If you are communicating with someone who receives hundreds of emails per day, the subject line tells the recipient if they need to read it right away or if it can wait. If a message is critical put “Critical!” in the subject line. Do not get annoying by making every message critical. It is like the boy who cried wolf once too often.
4. Your Email Format
An email message should be formatted so the reader can quickly read and understand the message. Unless you only have one to three sentences, do not write a continuous paragraph with no breaks. It makes the email hard to read. Just as this article is broken up into different thoughts, so should your email.
5. Your Email Length
Emails should be short and to the point. They are intended to be a quick way of communicating a specific message. Rambling on or including information that is not relevant to the email should be left out. If you have more than one topic to email the recipient about, write a separate email for each. It allows the recipient to respond according to priority and specifically to the topic.
6. Your Email Indicator
Email programs such as Microsoft Outlook have priority indicators. They are there for a purpose and should not be abused. If your email is not critical do not mark it as such. Respect the time of the reader. A critically marked email means the message is vital or contains information that must be acted on immediately.
7. Your Email Signature
Wow, where do I start. First your email should have a signature block. It should be a short and professional looking block with your contact information. Someone should not have to look up your contact information if they need to call you about the email. Do not include images such as the company logo that are not needed. While they may look nice they make the email larger than needed and may be held by email filtering software as it is seen as an attachment. Some people like to use fancy email signatures using HTML or Rich Text. Be aware that some email clients do not render these well.
8. How Will Your Email Be Read?
Today more and more people read email via Blackberry or some other type of mobile device. Consider this when formatting your email message. This is another reason not to include an image as part of your email signature. Portable devices are slower and images become an annoyance.
9. Do You Really Need a Return Receipt?
Unless you are sending a time sensitive or otherwise important enough message that you feel you need to cover yourself or document that you sent it, do not ask for a delivery receipt. It communicates to the recipient that you do not trust them to read your email.
10. Proofread Your Email
You should also proofread your email. Even the short ones. Check for misused words. Make sure the subject line correctly communicates what the message is about. Check your format. Is the message broken up enough so it is easy to read? If you do go back and edit an email message you should proofread it again. You may have taken a word out that destroyed your sentence structure.
11. Answer All Questions
When replying to email you should answer all questions. While your email should be short, a reply should include all if the information the sender is requesting. This prevents a stream of emails to get all the answers and waste both parties time.
12. Do Not CC: Unless You Need To
It can be confusing and creates the corporate version of junk mail when Carbon Copy (CC:) is over used. There is no need in adding anyone to the email that does not need to see it. If the person you are sending the email to thinks the information needs to be seen by someone else, they can always forward it.
13. Will Only The Recipient Read The Email?
When you create or reply to an email you should keep your personal comments out unless specifically asked for. Do not include any remarks or information you would not want someone else to see. How many times have you seen an email you sent to one person come back to you with 5-10 other people added to the conversation?
14. Email Attachments
Attachments should only be used when needed. Also consider the size of the attachment. If you are sending an email to someone who does not have an inbox big enough for it or their email system has restrictions they will never get the email. If you need to send a large attachment, follow-up on the email to be sure they received it.
15. Do Not Forward Spam or Chain Email
Don’t waste my time, the companies email server and storage space by sending me spam or the cute message you just received. It may sound harsh, but business email should only be about business. Remember in most companies all email is considered property of the company. What may be funny to you may be offensive to someone else. Consider this when viewing email in public. If someone walks by your desk while you are viewing a less than tasteful email they may be offended and complain. Worse, your boss could walk by.
All of this may take a little more time and effort. But it is important to remember your email is communicating not just the message, but who you are. You do not want to come off as lazy and unprofessional. Like all communications email is remembered. With some care your email will be remembered for the good reasons, not the bad.
Do you have any email pet-peeves? If so, share them with a comment.