In social media, we are used to back and forth chat pattern. However, email is different. It is a planned and comprehensive professional message that others expect at the workplace.
This is not like planning a party with friends where there can be back and forth messages. When you are writing to people you do not know well, you need to share context.
Your colleagues want the item in their inbox and do not want to check with you on what you mean by something. You have got to get it right the first time. This says a lot about your writing style. Are you writing like a professional or newcomer?
70-80% of workplace mistakes are due to miscommunication.
Tip: Avoid informal words and emojis.
If you are texting or writing on Facebook or Instagram, it is okay to use emojis, abbreviations such as LOL, informal salutations such as Ciao, Hey, TC, etc. or non-standard punctuation such as I am doing great!! You are saying… Why??
But, in business communication it is not appropriate to use these informal words and abbreviations.
Using linguistic shortcuts are perceived as friendly intimacy, like sharing a dessert with a close friend.
If you got too intimate on a first date or a first meeting with a colleague you would come across as over friendly, casual, and less appropriate.
In the same way, do not use informal language in writing emails. Always know who your audience is and write accordingly.
Let us look at an email example.
Re: Monthly AR Report for July 2020
I have checked the data in the main sheet. For ur ref the new data as of July 2020 is pasted in the AR sheet, but other tabs are not updated. Will update shortly. Pls let me know if this is okay??
What is the writer’s style?
Even though it is a noticeably short email, it comes across as informal. It sounds like Janny is Robert’s buddy rather than business colleague.
What makes Robert’s email look informal?
- Used informal words such as ur. Also, pls (please) should have been written out completely. Makes the person look less caring and polished.
However, AR for Accounts Receivable and Ref (Referral) could be an internal term used frequently in the department and understood by all. In those cases, it is okay to use internal team acronyms.
- The writer should make sure the email recipient’s name is spelled correctly. Janny might be Jenny or Jennifer, a very common name. People are very offended when their name is misspelled. Makes you look careless and insensitive.
- Hey, is considered too informal in the opening salutation. The writer could have said “Hi Janny” or “Dear Janny” depending on the culture. “Hello Janny,” would also have not been appropriate as in many cultures it is considered shouting, as if the person is not listening to you.
If you are writing to many people you could say Hi All, Hi Everyone, Hi Participants, Dear Team, etc.
- The line “Will let you know shortly,” should have a date when the sender will get back. This will give better clarity to his message.
- Should you send an email where “other tabs are not updated’’? No, you are making the recipient work. The other sheets could be deleted. Take the extra step to make yourself and your personal brand look more formal rather than casual. And you are showing that you care about the recipient’s time.
- The sentence “Please let me know if this is okay??” exaggerates the question mark and makes the writer look impatient and anxious to know an answer. Never make the mistake of adding more than one question mark at the end of the question.
- In the above line, the writer will wait for the reader to respond with an answer if this is okay. This can lead to a lot of back and forth and prevents the writer from immediately acting. Instead, we suggest you write it as, “If you want any changes, let me know.” This way, you can move ahead and if you do not hear from the reader it doesn’t matter. Ball is in the reader’s court.
- Using “!!!” sounds over excited. …. is informal conversation and something you want to avoid. Either way, punctuation beyond one exclamation, one question mark or one full stop/period looks less professional. It can be used in social media and texting friends but not in business.
- Tc! At the close, this means overexcitedly Take care. This type of salutation is more appropriate for a personal email than work.
In business, you want to use one of the following salutations in your closing.
This should be followed by your full name and comma.
Use an auto signature. It makes you look organized, time conscious and customer centric. This also saves you valuable time when you are writing an email. If a person needs to reach you, he/she knows exactly where to get in touch with you.
Your auto signature should be no more than 5 lines with the company name, address, your title, and a telephone number where you can be reached. Avoid flashy animations and gifs at the end of your email. Also, avoid adding any additional messages to your email because it increases the length.
Let us see how Robert’s email could have been written better.
Re: Monthly AR Report for March 2020
I have checked and updated the AR data in the main sheet till July 31, 2020. Will update you by August 13 with pending details. Please let me know if you want something else.
Account Receivable Associate
501 Almond Lane, Santa Clara, California 95053
The body of the email has reduced by 9 words (21%). Now it sounds clearer and the writing style looks more formal and has a better choice of words.
Here we have another email from a doctor.
Re: ENDOSCOPY FOR PEPTIC ULCER OF ESOPHAGUS
I HAVE REVIEWED YOUR REPORT AND BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE DEVELOPED FOOD PIPE ULCERS.
You should take Razo-L tablets twice per day for 15 days. See me after that.
What do you think of this doctor’s email?
I thought this doctor was shouting at me and needed to work on his patient skills. This kind of message reflects badly on both the hospital brand and doctor’s image. Patients may shy away from using this doctor.
The only time in an email, that a person should use capital letters is for a topic heading. But even then, it is not required, underline or bold or a different font color can also highlight it.
Even, the subject line feels like Dr. Minto is angry. A subject line should have no more than 1-2 entire capitalized words like a Purchase Order (P.O) number of some other internal reference number.
You put your thumbprint on your work. You want it to reflect your best self.
Go to kWurd.com evaluate your email writing style so that you sound like a professional and not an amateur.