Career Advice, Watercooler

The Rules of Emailing at Work

Lifehacker caught our attention recently in their post about avoiding inappropriate email sign-offs whether in professional or personal emails. Peter Post, author of Essential Manners for Men says that “Sincerely” is an all-purpose and safe way to close an e-mail message. “Yours truly” and “Regards” are also safe bets, but according to Peter, using “Best” is less than ideal. This got us thinking about the other ‘rules’ of sending emails at work and so below are some tips offered by career expert Rusty Rueff to consider before clicking send:

Confirm recipient: Auto-fill email addresses save time and hassle, but a slip of the finger means you could be sending the mail about Happy Hour to Joe, your department vice president, rather than your friend John. Be smart and take the time to confirm who will be receiving the mail.

Bcc doesn’t always mean BLIND: Just because you blind copy someone doesn’t mean that they won’t click ‘reply all’ to the message. And, if and when they do, everyone else on the distribution list will find out that you used the BCC field and will wonder why you chose to blind copy certain colleagues. Your trust level with others goes down each time this happens.

Use “reply all” sparingly. Does everyone on the distribution list really need to receive your comments or know that you think something is ‘awesome’? Clutter others inboxes only as you would want yours cluttered.

Use spell check: Whether typos or poor command of the English language, don’t let misspellings go uncorrected.  Spell check (F7)  is there to help you.

Be cognizant of time: If you send an email at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, the recipient of your email is going to feel they have to respond right back…and you just messed with their weekend time-off.  Use your scheduled send later option or save your emails as drafts and send them at a time where you aren’t treading on others time.  You will get a better response if you do.

Make sure your email makes sense: Ask yourself ‘what’s the purpose of the email?” and “Does my response address the purpose of the email so that others will easily understand?” Half-baked thoughts are really exposed on email.

Don’t try and use email for strategic issues: Anytime you are using email to expound upon an idea or thought that takes you the deliberation of hours, then ask yourself if you are sending this to really advance and solve something or to just show off what you know. These long emails only cause more long emails to come back before someone smarter than you says, “we need to take this offline”.

Be professional: This is still work after all – make sure your emails communicate your level of professionalism. Sure, there are a few exceptions to the rule but be really careful to not let your expertise, intelligence and judgment come into question. Forwarding a chain email with a joke might not be appropriate for the office and your name stays on as the originator when it hits the corner office

Take a breath. Things may not always come across as intended so before you fire off a curt reply, step away and re-read mail and your response. You may find it easier to simply pick up the phone and clarify or better yet, walk down the hall.

Emotions and PDAs don’t mix: Even after you have taken a breath still don’t send an email from a PDA that has any emotion involved.  You are likely in a restaurant, caught in rush-hour, or someplace else where you aren’t focused and in the right state of mind to answer back. Stick your PDA back in your pocket and wait until you get home or back at the office to answer that “hot” email. You will be glad you did.

Include contact information: Take advantage of the signature field that automatically inserts your contact information. For new mails, include all relevant information such as name, title, company, address phone, and other contact means like twitter name, LinkedIn profile, Instant messenger name (i.e. Skype username, AIM username, Y! messenger username). For replies and forwards, a phone number will be appreciated if someone wants to reach you quickly.

Many of us hear about building and promoting our online “brand” and emails should be considered part of that digital reputation. It’s important to remember that our emails can have a much longer and diverse life than we sometimes think.

The careful communicative steps you take now can yield benefits, or consequences, down the line.