oday, maintaining a strong digital reputation is equally important as keeping up a professional appearance in the workplace. With over 2.6 billion people using emails worldwide, digital exchanges now make up the bulk of our workplace communication, leaving our professional reputations and relationships resting precariously in our overflowing inboxes. While some may relish in the elimination of face-to-face contact, our reliance on email has undoubtedly opened the way for a whole host of office blunders that have the potential to leave you weeping into your keyboard before the working day is done. In a world where spamming your interns, irking your bosses and potentially breaking federal law, as Hillary Clinton has learnt to her despair, can all be achieved at the gentlest touch of a button; it is necessary at all levels in the office to master basic email etiquette.
Despite stereotypes that suggest email recipients only briefly skim read your message, do not be fooled, as it is the smallest of mistakes and errors that can make or break a digital reputation. However, little changes to emails- be this the introductory opening, the ending, or how the email is set out, can enhance your online communication and may be the difference between a promotion and a poor performance review. So, what are the best ways to strengthen your email ability?
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An Inviting Opener
The first words uttered on a page are there purposely to invite the reader to read on, so it is vital to know what an appropriate address is for your recipient. For example, you would not start the email with ‘Hiya’, ‘Yo’ or ‘Hello… It’s me’ if you happened to be emailing your boss or a prospective employer.
It is much better to use ‘Dear…’, with their name attached. If you are applying for a job it is always nice to have that personal touch, and therefore it is important to do your research before sending off that CV and find out their name. If you really struggle to find it, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or even ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ will suffice. Forbes also recommends that once the initial introduction has been stated go on to ask how the receiver is (if it’s a work colleague or acquaintance) as this demonstrates that you are interested in them as a person rather than as someone you simply work with.
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Short and Sweet
No one likes waffle. It can give the impression you are unsure of what you want to say which can be directly affiliated to lack of confidence - and if you are not confident in what you are offering the reader, why should they bother continue reading? To avoid this keep to short sentences. It is also effective to have plenty of spacing between each point you are making in the email so the reader can easily digest it. Additionally, no prospective employer or receiver of the email wants to trawl through masses of irrelevant text, but wants the main points to stand out straight away. To do this not only conveys your message in a clear and succinct way, but is also a sign of respect for your recipient’s time. This also applies to the subject line, which needs to be a direct but explanatory sentence. Professional business advisor and journalist, Shana Lebowitz, suggests that in the subject line sometimes its beneficial to declare the value you can provide to a company. For example, ‘I would like to share on increasing productivity within the workplace’. This can be intriguing to any receiver and will encourage them to go on and read the email.
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We live in a world surrounded by abbreviations and text talk. This has had a dramatic effect on our ability to spell words correctly and leads us to question our grammar when it comes to compiling a formal email. Grammarly, a leading blog based company specifically encourages young people to strive to use the correct grammatical phrases rather than opt for shortened and abbreviated text.
Bad spelling and grammar in your business correspondence will inevitably lower your chances of securing that promotion or deal. It is therefore vital to ensure you proofread your email before you send it, especially if it is being sent to someone in a position of authority. When it comes to the rules of grammar assume nothing. While technology may at times be our downfall, it can also serve as our savior and these are the moments Google was made for, so make sure you do your research before hitting send.
Career coach Barbara Pachter would also have us keep in mind that spell check and autocorrect tools are not always our friends. "One supervisor intended to write 'Sorry for the inconvenience.' But he relied on his spell-check and ended up writing 'Sorry for the incontinence.'"
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Choose Words Carefully
According to career and business blogger Aja Frost, there are three words in particular that can be damaging when used frequently in emails. These words are ‘actually, sorry, and me’. Frost explains that these words are either overused or demonstrate selfish qualities. Instead of using these words, Frost recommends finding alternatives that express the same sentiment, but convey a more respectful and professional tone. For example, if you replace ‘sorry’ with ‘I apologize’ it immediately makes you seem much more sincere. Whilst scouring your emails for errors, take a skim read of your phrasing and see if you feel any words are over used or imply different meanings to what you want the message to portray. From there you can evaluate your choice of language and make efficient changes. Remember, if you are struggling, there are many online thesauruses to search with.
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A Secure Ending
Much like the initial address, when signing off an email it is also important to use the correct phrase. Once again think about your recipient. For an acquaintance, ‘Best Wishes’ or ‘Regards’ is often the most suitable option as it is polite and rather open. When ending an email with a stranger or prospective employer it is necessary to finish with ‘Yours Faithfully’, a professional ending. Save experimentation and colloquial phrasing for your personal emails and stick to the basics and in the long run it may (quite literally) pay off.
Words by Emma Corr