**Wakes up to sound of alarm, turns off alarm, checks email**
Does this routine sound familiar? I can’t be the only one that is nearly attached at the hip to my phone, checking email constantly. For over a decade now, email has been only of the top forms of communication for businesses.
Of course, as time and the workplace itself evolves, there's an increasing amount of internal communication options. There are apps like Slack, for example, and many people still prefer the good, old-fashioned method of having a conversation in person. But as these methods for interacting grow in number, it also becomes a bit trickier to remember the right "etiquette" for all of them.
But email hasn't exactly become a thing of the past -- yet -- it's just that many of us have forgotten the right way to use it, at least in the workplace. That's why it's as important as ever to make good, effective use of it, which means maintaining some basic do's and don'ts.
As you'll see from the list below, effective email communication means that it needs to be both relevant and appropriate, depending on its subject and importance. Read on to see the full list.
How to Use Workplace Email Most Effectively
No matter whether it’s an internal email to your best friend/co-worker, or a message full of important information to a client, you should always get in the habit of addressing that person appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to address this person as you would in conversation, whether by first name or more formally.
By that, I mean: Know your recipient. Study any past emails this person has sent, recognize her tone or writing style, and adapt to that. If her emails are historically short and straight to the point, it might just mean that she's extremely busy. In that case, try and be concise in your response emails.
3) Always check before clicking "send."
This point might be the ultimate “do” when emailing. One of the worst feelings is clicking "send," only to realize that you missed something, didn’t attach a document, or misspelled something (and hey -- we've all been there). Pro tip: To avoid these mishaps, don't put the email address in the "to" line until you’ve had a chance to double-check the message.
4) Keep messages short.
There’s no point in fluffing an email with extraneous details -- rather, get straight to the point. An email that could double as a novella is not time-effective for the both sender or recipient. We'll leave it at that.
5) Keep your inbox clean.
We know you're out there -- the folks with unopened emails that number in the triple digits (or worse). When I imagine a horror movie that's set in a work environment, the vision of hundreds of unopened emails makes me want to sink into the couch and cover my eyes with a blanket. Clean your inbox, break up folders for different clients, and work toward diminishing the stress that can result from seeing big numbers next to your inbox button.
6) Check your email on your time.
In other words: Don’t get caught in the trap o checking your email every few minutes. One of the biggest momentum killers is getting in the habit of checking your email frequently, pausing what you're working on, and having to reset your focus.
At Revenue River Marketing, we aim to check our email a total of 3-4 times each day, unless it's necessary to spend more time on it because of something urgent. That practice helps us stay engaged with content creation and client deliverables.
7) Remember that some things are better kept to yourself.
“Oh, you just got back from your buddy's bachelor party in Las Vegas? Oh, you want to email me and recount the details of it that should probably never surface more than once in your life?”
Stop right there. Receiving emails that fit this discription through your workplace email address is not a good idea.
That's not to say that your employer is monitoring your emails -- although, some might have the right to do so -- and maybe you work for a company that wouldn't necessary frown upon a rambunctious trip to Las Vegas. But here's a place where common sense is best practiced -- some experiences are better left remembered via personal email.
8) Use Zoom and Slack as alternatives.
Across the board, many companies are implementing video conferencing tools like Zoom, for a number of reasons. Not only do they support a global workforce, but also, it provides an alternative to email that can help clarify important connotations that are sometimes lost over email.
Instant messaging apps like Slack, too, are also growing in popularity -- not only can they help you get quicker answers from your colleagues, but also, it helps to isolate email as a more formal method of communication.
That said, it's easy for instant messaging conversations to stray from work topics -- but we're all human, and sometimes, that means sending your colleague the occasional funny GIF image. But, it still helps to reduce email clutter by sending an informal note that doesn't need to be communicated over email.
1) Abbrv8 -- I mean, abbreviate.
Although we aren’t ranking these tips, this one is might top the list of don'ts. Remember, no matter how laid back your workplace might be, it's still a professional setting. You might not want to get into the habit of signing emails with things like, “thx,” “lol,” or “c u @ wrk l8r,” only to mindlessly send an email to a client with similar vernamular. Here’s a helpful resource to make sure abbreviations NEVER happen: The Slang Translator
Ah yes, another one that gives me chills every time I see it: the exclamation point. Because I am a visual person, I see the overuse of exclamation points -- or the dreaded “caps lock email” -- as yelling. Other people might, too. If used excessively, the exclamation point can give false expectations and look unprofessional. There is a right time for an exclamation point, but before you think about holding your fingers down on the “Shift” “1” keys, think about the context in which your email may be received.
3) :) or :(
This may just be me, but does anyone else get a little cringe when you see a smiley/sad face in an email? In a professional setting, much like abbreviating, it gives off the vibe of being a bit too laid back. Keep it professional, and leave out the emoticons.
4) Send the one-word “okay” or “thanks” response.
Not to counter the point above, but while keeping messages short is ideal -- sending the dreaded, non-descriptive one-word email is not. Sometimes, people need a detailed answer. Something like content that's ready for edits, for example, can’t be answered with a simple “okay”, so give the sender the courtesy of the answer or closure they need.
5) Use the reply-all button at will.
There comes a time in every marketer’s life at which she realizes that the “reply-all” is rarely necessary. If you haven't learned that lesson yet, allow this post serve as it.
Replying-all to the email includes multiple people who likely don't need to be looped in on every single response in the chain. Reply only to the people who need to see your response -- their inboxes will thank you.
6) Email if you’re burnt out.
It’s 11:30 a.m. -- almost lunch time -- and you can practically hear your stomach yelling your name for food. Or, better yet, you just surfaced from your computer screen after writing several blog posts in a row, and your eyes are all but glazed over. But then you remember that you need to send a work email; one that requires serious thought, and wonder, "Should I just get this over with now?"
Take a deep breath, stand up, take a lap, and get some water. There are so many instances where an important email should wait -- based on your current level of patience or stress. After you take a break, determine if you feel level-headed enough to send a clear and thought-out email.
Let's face it: We've all broken at least one of these rules. But next time you find yourself tempted to repeat it, take a step back from the keyboard -- and think about this list.
Originally published Sep 12, 2017 8:00:00 AM, updated June 09 2021