Emails are our go-to communication channel at work because it is low-cost for the company, efficient for archiving and ensures transparency and accountability. For the individual employee, it is fast, fuss-free and less intrusive than a call.
With its convenience, employees sometimes become over-reliant on it and take the implications of email communication for granted. For instance, employees tend to become sloppy in conveying instructions and allow themselves to be informal over emails.
Here are 5 essential points to bear in mind when drafting each and every email at work, no matter who you send it to:
1. Be formal and Straight to the Point
Work is absolutely a formal setting hence the tone, content and intention of your emails are always serious. This should influence your choice of greeting, language and level of detail you include in the body of the email, in order to ensure your your email effectively communicates your intended message, no more or less. More importantly, do not take the liberty to crack a joke that would undermine the seriousness of your email. There is a place for humour and light-hearted conversations and emails are not one of them, no matter how many pints of beer you down with the recipient of the email every Friday evening.
2. Assume that your email is public
When sending internal emails, is always wise to act on the premise that your email can and could be seen by everyone in the company, from the intern to the CEO, from compliance to IT. Does your email contain something you would say to a staff that you would not want your boss to read? Does it border on libel or speculations? It is worthwhile considering the possibility that the intended recipient may accidentally or intentionally share the email, ad verbatim, with someone else whom you may not have wanted to address.
3. Avoid sending emails on impulse
Once in a while we receive emails that provoke or upset us and in our heads, we conjure a thousand different scenarios to give the sender a taste of their own medicine. While this is exciting and makes us feel better, it should not translate into an actual email reply. It is often important to think long term and hold back any angry emails we may want to send, because we all know that in no more than 10 minutes after the email goes out, we will be in deep regret. Instead, discuss concrete actions with someone on your team and use results to prove the sender wrong.
4. Is this better said in person or over the phone, rather than on email?
Often if an email you wish to reply to gets too convoluted or unclear, we may struggle to draft a clear and detailed reply. If you do not know the sender well, you might even end up misreading their intent. It is sometimes worth giving the sender a call to clarify the message in their email, than to force a reply their way. Furthermore, it adds a personal touch to your communication.
5. Read, Reread and Read one last time
It is common for writers to miss their own typos and slips, due to a phenomenon that psychologists term generalization where one is more concerned with the creation of meaning and completing a piece of writing and as a result, glide over errors in plain sight. Making your time to proofread your email draft conscientiously and better yet, have a colleague read it for you, will minimize any such errors.