For each question, choose the number from 0 – 10 that describes how many times out of every 10 emails you send, you do the activity in that question?
For example, if it asks, “Do you begin your email with a greeting?” you’d answer how many times, out of every 10 emails you send, you begin them with a greeting. If you never do, your answer will be 0. If you always do it, your answer is 10.
How many times out of every 10 emails you send, do you:
- Create a subject line that is pertinent to the topic in the email?
- Avoid using ALL CAPS when typing your message?
- Use bullets points or white space in longer email messages?
- Reduce the size of graphics you are sending?
- Add both a greeting and a closing such as “Hey Amiee,” and “Sincerely, Amiee”?
- Use concise language. Say it in fewer words.
- Re-read to check for splelling and punctuation..; before sending?
- Refer to the attachment in the email if attaching something?
- Only carbon copying people who have given you permission to share their email address with others you are carbon copying?
- Adjust or remove your signature on a reply string of emails?
Add up your total score by tallying your answers for the ten questions.
Email is the most used form of communication for any official business. That includes communication in the workplace, academia, between customers and vendors, and within professional peer groups.
Obviously texting is a huge part of our social communication and is even growing in popularity for some uses in professional settings, but it will not take the place of email any time soon. When longer messages are necessary or a record of communication is important, email will be the first choice of users.
Since it is likely you’ll be using email for much of your communication, if you aren’t already, it is ideal to know how to use it in a way that presents you in a positive light. Following a few simple guidelines can impact the level of professionalism you portray as well as whether your email recipients appreciate the way you communicate or roll their eyes each time they attempt to decipher your message.
What Was Your Score?
80-100: You are an email master. Your communications are professional, considerate, and probably well received. You’re so good, you probably already use folders to organize your emails too.
60-79: You are doing well. Improve in a few areas and you will soon be a master of the email process. See below for an explanation of the question topics and pick which of them you’d like to work on first.
40-59: You’ve got a lot to work on in order to be great at your email communications, but you are on the right track. Most likely, you would be a master already if you had been aware of a few other ways to be a considerate and professional emailer. See below for an explanation of the question topics and pick which of them you’d like to work on first.
0 – 39: Email rookie. Either you are new to email, you’ve never been taught how to use it as a professional communication tool, or you just haven’t cared. Whichever it is, you are forgiven as long as seek improvement. Any of those reasons for poor emailing can be fixed as long as you choose to work on it. You probably don’t even know how many people are rolling their eyes after reading your emails, or worse, not reading them at all. Please read the explanations below to take a step forward on your path to being an email master.
Tips to Mastering Email Communication
1. Understand the importance of the subject line.
Most people who use email professionally do not respond to emails the first time they read them. Often, they scan it, decide when they’ll put it in their schedule to handle the request or follow up, and close it back out. Oftentimes, they are also saving emails they have responded to in an organizational system so they can refer back to it when needed. If the ever delete it, that usually happens months later, when they feel certain they no longer need a record of it.
Because of that, emails need to be searchable. The easiest way to make your email findable within a search is to use subject lines pertinent to the topic in the email. Try to avoid nonspecific subjects like “question for you”, “an issue I need your help with”, or “this is great, check it out”. Instead use specific subjects such as “question regarding Health Science research project”, “Approach needed for past customer courtesy call”, or “Inspiring video – Champions find a way.”
Besides being searchable and specific, subject lines should also include a deadline if there is one. If you need a reply by a certain date, it is a good idea to include it. It could be something like “question – Health Science research project – Pls reply by (Date)”. Obviously that doesn’t mean they’ll always reply by that time, but it is more likely they’ll at least open it before then to see if they can help you.
When replying to an email, if your topic is different than the original topic of the email that person sent you, you should change the subject line. Using reply is good when you are staying on topic of that email. If you are using reply because you want to be sure you don’t type that person’s email address incorrectly, it is ideal to change the subject line and delete all of the previous conversation of that email string.
Some email platforms (Gmail for one) group emails with the same subject line together. Let’s say you are inviting people to a party and your subject line is “It’s this weekend and you’re invited!” When you send an individual email with that same subject to multiple recipients, and they reply, the email platform may group all of those replies into one string.
In some cases, that may be fine. In other cases, emails can get overlooked easily because in order to see them, you have to scroll through multiple responses. It is best to change the subject line slightly. For example, you could use “It’s this weekend and you’re invited Amiee.” Then change the name each time you send it to someone else.
2. If you can avoid it, do not use carbon copy to send one email to a group of people.
Unless you have each person’s permission to share his or her email address with others, it is simply not courteous to do so.
3. Avoid Using All Caps in Emails
Most people read all caps as yelling. If you need to emphasize a word, use bold, a different color of font, or underline. If your purpose is to yell, and you want to use all caps to do so, you should refrain from sending the email. Instead come back to your keyboard when your emotions are not at a high.
4. Use Concise Wording
Since we are talking about professional emailing for the most part, to people who are generally receiving many emails, you want to avoid creating emails any longer than they need to be. When someone opens an email and sees a really lengthy message, they are more likely to close it thinking “I’ll read that when I have more time.”
The real problem is very few of us ever come to a point in our days where we say to ourselves, “Now is the time I want to read a really long email.” Don’t say blah, blah, blah when blah is enough.
If you are only saying blah and it is still lengthy, make sure you use white space between paragraphs and/or bullets to help break up the text. That will at least appear as less cumbersome when your recipient scans it.
5. Use Greetings, Salutations, and Names
Open your email with a hello, hey, hi, dear or something similar followed by that person’s name. Greetings are still part of being professional even if it seems they are redundant. “I’m sending the email to Joe so I shouldn’t need to start by addressing Joe.” Regardless of the redundant feel of it, it is still appropriate to put his or her name.
Check the spelling of names. Some email addresses have the name in it, and I’ve seen people still spell the name wrong in the greeting when the email is right in front of them as a reference to how to spell it. That just shows laziness and a lack of caring to spell it right.
End each email with a sign off and your name. It doesn’t matter whether it is thanks, sincerely, yours in service, talk to you soon, or something else, as long as it’s there.
6. Read Your Email Before Hitting Send
I feel I have a better than average handle on correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and yet, I find errors in at least 70% of my own emails when proofreading before sending. It is normal to need to correct things after writing a first draft.
Sending it without proofreading, and your recipient getting an email with typos, misspellings, mistaken sentence structure, and mistaken auto corrects, makes you look bad. You’ll give off the impression of ignorance, laziness, or lack of interest in doing good work. None of those is the impression you want to make, especially since none of those probably describes you accurately.
7. Refer to the Attachment When You Attach it.
Sometimes you recipient doesn’t realize you attached a file, and it’s not up to them to search the bottoms of every email they receive to double check. When you attach something to your email, simply add “see attachment” or something similar in the body of your email.
Attachments should also be titled appropriately. A file name may make sense to you when you title it “my term paper”, but when sending it to your professor, you need to change it so your professor can find it after downloading it among other students’ papers. If every student sends a paper titled “my term paper” the professor will have to change every file name.
8. Signature and Graphics Etiquette
Watch the size of your signature. We know it’s fun to be able to attach pictures and you love good quotes, but the more you add to your signature, the more space it takes up in your recipients system. Choose one quote to add to your signature. If you like many quotes, switch it up now and then. Add no more than one graphic, if any, and make sure the file size on it is small.
When sending any graphics, resize them for optimal viewing for emails and mobile devices. That means, you want them to be 300 – 600 pixels wide or less. The larger your graphics and photos, the less likely it will be delivered. When it is delivered, it can be hard to view. Some come through so large, you can’t even see the entire graphic in one screen; you only get a portion of it. It is up to you to size them appropriately.
Eliminate or reduce your signature in an email string. They received your full signature when they got your first email. When they reply and you have a conversation going back and forth, your full signature is not needed in every email response. The full signature just makes the full conversation longer, because you are both scrolling over it each time you are reviewing previous emails. If you can’t change your email settings to reduce the size of your reply signature automatically, take a couple of seconds to delete it yourself.
There are some things we all do every day. Communication is one of them. It’s not difficult to determine those with communication strengths and those with weaknesses. Just like your verbal skills are easily judged for their effectiveness, so too are your email skills.