Gone are the days where checking your email felt as futuristic as the 90’s desktop you checked it on. Now the only futuristic thing about it is how we manage to maneuver through our inboxes like space ships rummaging through black holes. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, we spend an average of 13 hours—28 percent of our workweek—reading, deleting, sorting and sending emails.1 As cumbersome as it may seem, emailing is a necessary evil in the professional world that can be dealt with efficiently and effectively. Here are some tips to make your digital mail life far better for both you and the recipient:
- Subjects Matter: Treat your subject line like you would a newspaper headline. It is your selling point and allows the reader to decipher whether or not it is worth opening right away (or opening at all). Be clear, concise and specific. Keep it between 5-8 words; anything less may be far too vague.
- Get To The Point: For those who receive a constant barrage of emails, it is important that you keep your emails short, but meaningful. If your email chain runs long for one question, or if the email itself starts to look like a short story submission for the New Yorker, it may be time to pick up the phone or schedule an in-person meeting to discuss the issue at hand.
- Timely Responses: While it’s not necessary to respond to an email instantaneously, it is important that the message be tended to within 24-48 hours of receiving it. Keeping up with emails in a timely manner improves the workflow for not only yourself, but the recipient as well.
- Beware of Humor: Unless the recipient and you know each other well enough, humor may not always be your best bet when trying to communicate something across. Humor is very subjective and what you may find to be funny may not be funny to somebody else.
- “Reply All” With Caution: There are not too many things that require the attention of every recipient in the email train, so don’t blow up everyone’s inbox/phone with notifications to messages that have nothing to do with them. No one deserves that avalanche of emails that “reply all” causes. Just manually enter or CC your proper recipients.
- Signature: Unless you’re Beyoncé, there is a slight chance that your recipient may not know exactly who you are or they may just want to find out more about you. A signature is the perfect place to state this and to in a way advertise yourself even further.
- Respect Comes A Long Way: A simple “thank you” or “I appreciate your help” in your emails allows you to be perceived far more positively and the recipient may work that much harder when they feel valued, respected and visible.
- Spelling Counts: Although a typo here or there won’t end your career, it is important to realize that professional emails aren’t tweets or Facebook messages. Using proper spelling and grammar as opposed to texting lingo would be best since emails can often reflect the professional demeanor of the sender. Also, proofread, proofread and proofread.
- Email Isn’t Private: As two-sided as it looks on the surface, emails aren’t necessarily private property. Keep in mind that emails sent within an organization have free reign to be forwarded or exposed as soon as you hit the send button. Emails can also be examined and used in a court of law.
- Know the Company Culture: Everything I’ve listed here may have its exceptions based on the culture within the organization itself. In some places it may be perfectly fine to use texting lingo and humor so you can disregard that from my list. It is important to keep in tune with the way people connect so you too can connect effectively and appropriately.