Admit it: If there is one skill that the pandemic has sharpened in all of us who have been working from home, that would be proper email etiquette. Well, there are a good number of things that messaging apps can convenience us with, but there are just some things that don’t cut it with just sending a private message. And since we aren’t seeing a lot of each other that much, we have resorted and depended on emails. So, aside from video conferencing and setting the right schedules for tasks to be accomplished on time despite working remotely, email etiquette is one great thing we have mastered in this pandemic.
Or have we? well, it is not too late to work on your overall working style when it comes to email, because even if we go back to a “new normal”, there is little, if no chance, that emails will all of a sudden become an obsolete way of getting in touch with work teammates and clients. With that said, here are some tips on how to keep your email game top-notch:
You don’t have to use Reply All all the time
Actually, you need to exercise caution when it comes to using Reply All. Instead of making it the norm when answering group emails, have a thought about whether Reply All is applicable in each and every group email you receive. If all recipients of the email you are responding to need to know what you have to say, then use Reply All. Otherwise, there is really not a necessity to use it. In some cases, using it just to, for example, information that you’re done with the task assigned to all just looks like you’re showing off. There’s absolutely no need for that peacock behavior, even on emails.
When it comes to using “Reply all,” it’s best to err on the side of not using it, and instead reply directly to the sender. Most of the times the other people on the email list do not need to see your response.
Work on making your subject lines effective
Your email subject line, if for teammates, should already capture important details of your message. Times, dates, events, and locations should be present in your subject line already. Of course, this best practice is different when we are talking about sales or marketing emails where you are supposed to entice the recipient of the email to read your entire message, so the subject lines should not be so explicit and instead should just ‘tease’ your reader into reading your entire email. For office-related email, be more efficient with your subject lines instead, as you are not selling or marketing something to your colleagues.
At first, your email subject line and preheader are the only thing email recipients can see when they receive your email in their inbox. Since email inboxes are inundated with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of emails per day, catchy and clear email subject lines are more important than ever. This one line of text can often determine whether an email is opened or sent straight to trash (or worse, to spam).
Don’t just forward. Explain.
Don’t you hate it when you get an email forwarded to you without an explanation as to why you’ve been forwarded that email? Don’t promote this practice. It would actually be better to send an email or instant message first to the person who will be receiving your forwarded email, explaining why s/he will be receiving a forwarded email. After sending that message, that’s the time you can forward the email. This way, you will lessen the head-scratching teammates wondering why they got an email that they were not originally part of, from you.
If you forward a message, always include your thoughts on the email. Refer to the information in the message by leaving a comment at the top. Express your opinion, suggest solutions or further steps. That shows you put in the time to read the whole thread. It’s also a signal to other people that the message is worth taking a look at.
Acknowledge receipt on any and all emails.
You know why we have those out-of-office messages when we are on leave or on holiday, away from work, right? Those messages are for the benefit of the email senders so that they will not wonder if you have received the email or not, as they will be automatically informed by the out-of-office reply that you are on holiday and when you will be expected to return. The same goes for every email. Especially these days when not all of us are in the office at the same time, it is essential for all people who have sent you an email that you have received their message. Don’t make them worried whether you’ve already received and read their email or not. Set their expectations and placate their nerves.
If the email sender has taken the time to address you in the To: line (and it really was intended for you vs. what should have been a Cc:), take the time to acknowledge you received it. The response doesn’t need to be a diatribe. To the contrary, the fewer words the better, e.g. “Thanks,” “Got it,” “Makes sense,” etc. This lets the sender know you received the message, don’t need any additional information or context, and thus they can check it off their list.
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