Professional settings call for a different set of etiquette. People usually have a persona that is for their workplace and another one that they show to their friends and family. That’s not to say that you can’t be your authentic self while at work, but there’s a level of professionalism you need to keep so you don’t get in trouble or offend anyone.
Your colleagues probably get tens if not hundreds of emails everyday so what’s the best way to get your point across and get what you need? A lot of people who enter the professional workplace never read up on what email etiquette is so StackCache is compiling the fundamentals to get you on the right track.
What is the goal of your email?
Obviously at the highest level, emails are meant to communicate something to others. However, you need to start off by thinking about what you want the outcome to be after you hit send. Are you trying to inform a group about an issue that came up? Do you need their input? Is the email meant to ask someone for an approval? All the inputs that go into your subject line and message can help streamline the conversation so you get to what you need more efficiently.
Perhaps you heard that there’s a new project that needs engineering resources and it’s a top priority for your company. It may be your responsibility to let the rest of your team know. Take the time to summarize what you’ve learned and remember to think about your audience and how it relates to them. If this is just meant to keep them updated, emphasize that no actions are needed from the group.
During this morning’s discussion about Q2 priorities, a new initiative was announced that will require a team of engineers to dedicate their next few weeks of time.
Why This is Important
Our timelines may be slightly delayed as the engineering team will be all hands on deck for this initiative.
Keep leadership updated on our progress as resources may be slim. I will follow up with our program management team to rework our timeline. No other actions needed from this group.
Emails that Require a Decision
Let’s say you need to get approval on a new expense for your team and the person to grant it is several seats higher than you at the company. Most likely, they won’t need the full details that you’ve collected in order to make a decision. For these types of emails, it’s best to give a brief summary, the cost to the company, the benefit, and a call to action that you need their approval by a certain date. It’s helpful to keep the email short or even to have an “appendix” section or attachment if the approver would like more details.
Emails to Set Up a Call
You may find yourself working with colleagues who are not on your direct team occasionally. For these types of situations, every team may not have the full background of what is needed of them right from the start. Sometimes it’s best to take things past email to discuss in real time and hash things out. Consider sending a short email to ask the necessary people if they’re available and willing to hop on a call with you and let them know what your goal is for that time. That gives them the opportunity to prepare for any questions once they have the proper context.
A strong subject line may be the difference between hearing back from someone immediately or having to follow up multiple times to get what you want. Many people overlook the importance of a clear subject line. Depending on how the settings are configured for an inbox, someone might not be able to see snippets of the message so they can only determine if the email is worth opening up right away based on the subject line.
Using Call to Actions
If you need something from someone, emphasize that in the subject line. Some examples below:
Please Confirm Receipt:
You don’t need to go all in with caps like some of the examples above but it may be a good way to grab attention to your recipients. Of course, don’t use all caps in all of your subject lines otherwise there won’t be anything standing out when you need a quick reply on something.
Recapping Main Point
Stay away from generic subject lines like “Notes” or “Hello” as it doesn’t let the recipient know what the email pertains to. If they need to reference it later for whatever reason, this will be difficult to search for. Instead, go for concise subject lines that get to the point of what the objective is. Here are some examples StackCache has come up with:
Follow Up Question on Q4 Budgets
Approval Requested for Team Structure Changes
Summary of QBR Session from March 6th
Structure of Message Body
Before we dive into some tips and tricks on how to write the main course of your email, keep some of these faux pas in mind.
- Avoid emails that are a wall of text. As mentioned previously, your colleagues get potentially hundreds of emails everyday. Refrain from throwing unnecessary details into the content.
- Use professional language. Unless your email is going to a work friend and you have a unique way of communicating with each other, it’s best to remember your audience is people whom you work with. Avoid using slang or inappropriate language. Jokes are okay though!
- Don’t use too many colors or highlights. StackCache is in the camp that bolding, highlighting, and other accents can help bring attention to important information in an email. However, using too many of these devices is distracting and confusing for the reader.
- Proofread! Whether for spelling or grammar, your emails are a reflection of your work and communication so we think it’s worth a couple of minutes to check.
Summary, Key Points, Action
Not every email requires all these components but we like to stick with an easy structure when communicating with coworkers.
- First, provide a summary of what the email is about. What background information does the reader need to know in order to get to your objective of the email?
- Emphasize any key points that further support the goal you’re aiming for.
- Finally, lay out your suggestion and next steps or request specific actions from the recipients. If there is no action needed, let the reader know.
Depending on the number of key points or follow up items required, we recommend using bullets or numbered bullets to make it easier for the reader to break items down. Also consider using the tagging feature in different email clients if there are assigned tasks. Don’t forget to include a deadline if there are time constraints!
Another tip is to highlight or bold wherever the main request is within the email. That way, the recipient can easily find what you need from them.
Signing off an email shouldn’t take too much time but remember to think of the tone and audience. If it was a short note to a teammate, perhaps something like “Thanks!” is fine. If it’s an email after someone announced they’ll be leaving for a new role, a “Warm Regards” could be more fitting.
It’s also helpful to include your title and contact information in your email signature as a permanent part of your new email templates. If you use other communication tools like Skype or want others to be able to reach you through phone, add it in your signature.