How To Master Your Work Emails

MAKE USE OF THE SUBJECT LINE

A subject line is the first impression of an email. Make the most of it by summarizing the key point of your message. Use a reply date or time if the matter is urgent. Eg: “Response required to Proposal X by noon tomorrow.

CHECK THE RECIPIENTS NAME

Before you click ‘Send’, double check the name of the person you are sending the email to. As a result of human error, many emails end up going to an unintended recipient. Negative outcomes can include a breach of privacy, embarrassment, legal issues, hurt feelings, and time wasted.

BE CAREFUL USING CC

‘CC’ used to stand for carbon copy, from the days of putting a piece of carbon paper behind a sheet of regular paper so the primary letter would be replicated (as a record of what was written). Today, ‘CC’ stands for courtesy copy, which means you’re including someone on an email who needs or wishes to know about the content but is not expected to reply. Most readers view ‘CC’ as an ‘FYI’, not as an action item.

BE EXTRA CAREFUL USING BCC

‘BCC’ is a blind copy. It’s good to use when you need to email a large group of people, who may not want their email addresses divulge—it respects their privacy. But it can also be perceived negatively, as people want to know who else saw the message. To some, ‘BCC’ seems sneaky.

CHECK YOUR TONE, TWICE

It’s surprising what other people read into meaning. The tone you hear in your head when composing an email isn’t always the tone interpreted by the reader. Irony and sarcasm are often misunderstood in email, and humour doesn’t translate the same across all cultures, ages, and business sectors. Think of the audience as you review your message.

KEEP CONTENT TO WHAT IS ESSENTIAL

Add an attachment for long-winded explanations. Excessive email content is hard to sift through. Say what is necessary without extras, and use paragraph breaks to separate points.

SPELL CHECK AND PROOFREAD

It’s important to remember that these two things aren’t the same. Spell check will catch obvious spelling mistakes such as Sincerly versus Sincerely, but it won’t catch common mistakes like their versus there. Eg: “Their is a meeting tomorrow at 1pm.” Take the extra moment to do both before sending.

TIME CHECK

Having the date, time and time zone set correctly on your computer ensures that when you receive an email from someone, you can see the actual time the email was sent—even if they are in another time zone. To change your settings in Windows 7, click on the clock in the bottom right corner of your screen and then select ‘Change date and time settings.’ Date and time matter because email is relied on for corporate memory, including legal matters. Not having the proper date and time stamps can change the validity and facts of an occurrence.

THINK PROFESSIONAL, NOT FLASHY

Emails containing wallpaper, HTML, colours and multiple font sizes may look nice to the creator, but they may not make it through firewalls and if they do, they may appear distorted. Keep emails plain and simple—this will make them easier to read, and look more business oriented.

REQUEST A REPLY

Tell the person you are emailing if you expect a reply. Many messages look like an ‘FYI’ and it’s hard to tell if you should answer or not. If you have an important question, you may want to pick up the phone, or highlight your question in the email. Don’t assume a reply is guaranteed.

CONFIRM RECEIPT

If you don’t receive a response, and your email is urgent, be sure it got there. Sometimes emails are sent but NOT received. If it’s important, check-in to be sure the recipient has the email.

AVOID ONE WORD RESPONSES

Sending brief responses can appear nonchalant or imply that you’re not interested. Eg: “Sure” or “Ok” may appear flippant. Acknowledge the sender’s message in some way when responding.

DELETED BUT NOT GONE

Deleted emails are never really gone forever. They’re archived somewhere on a back-up server. This can be both beneficial if you need to retrieve an old email, and detrimental if you think you’ve gotten rid of a message that may raise future concerns.

BEWARE OF HOAXES

Every day, we get emails about a person who was injured, a computer virus warning, a bank asking you to ‘click here’, someone overseas asking for money to get home, etc. Most are urban legends, so don’t get caught up. For information on hoaxes and viruses, check out: www.virusbtn.com.

RUN ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE

This is important to avoid catching or sharing a virus. Try malware (such as FBI MoneyPak scam), or ransomware (such as CryptoLocker).