E-mails have become such a pervasive presence in our personal and professional lives that it's almost impossible to imagine our existence without them. In the professional world, a great deal communication is carried out through emails, from dealing with clients or customers to confirming meetings with colleagues or superiors. The tone and content of a professional e-mail is very different from a personal one, as the former is more taut and precise. The easiest way to ensure effective communication via emails is to treat them like any other form of professional communication with a few minor changes.
To call or to e-mail?
Often enough, you might be confused between the two options of calling or emailing a colleague or your boss. There is a rather simple way of solving this dilemma; if you do not need an immediate reply, email is the way to go. On the other hand, if you need to inform your boss about an urgent meeting, a phone call would be more appropriate. At the same time, also consider the general nature of the information. Is it too complicated or too classified? If yes, have a telephone conversation and sort things out. For other routine notifications or official attachments that need to be sent to multiple people, emails are ideal.
Draft the subject line wisely
When drafting the subject line of an email, think of newspaper headlines and how they capture all essential information in a single phrase. That's precisely what a subject line should achieve. Under normal circumstances, it should state the cause of the email along with any important date, time, or venue. For instance, "Request for IT project deadline extension til November 25" is a good subject line, while "IT Project" or "Deadline Extension" are both lacking in detail. Keep it short, precise and informative.
Maintain a professional tone throughout
The fact that you and your boss are good friends outside of work doesn't mean that you should use a casual tone in professional e-mails. Remember, these e-mails are being used for official communication and might be archived as such. Therefore, it's always better to stick to an appropriately professional tone. Begin the e-mail with a formal salutation instead of a more laid back one like 'Hey Mark!'. In email, it's acceptable to drop the 'Dear' and use the name right away, e.g. 'Mr. Jones,' or 'Mark,'. That said, being too formal may end up alienating your audience. To be on the safe side, always be one level more formal than your superiors at work. For example, if your boss begins an e-mail with 'Hi, Sarah', you can respond with 'Ms. Joseph' or simply 'Mary'. If you are sending an e-mail to a group of people, address it collectively, for example, 'Members of the Core Executive Panel'. It's all a part of an implicit professional code; once you have spent enough time in an office, you will be more equipped to deal with such technicalities.
Streamline the information
When it comes to the main body of the email, remember this cardinal rule; say no to fluff or extraneous details. If you are emailing a new contact, begin by introducing yourself and your role in the company you work for. Then, present your message. If the information is too extensive, break it into bullet lists or small paragraphs with headings. For instance, while sending an e-mail about prospective issues to be discussed at a meeting, make a bullet list. Additionally, always make important details like the date, time and venue of a meeting easy to find. This way, the recipients can get a gist of the message in a passing glance.
Use proper sign-offs
As with introductory salutations, so with send-off greetings; they need to be professional. In most cases, it is appropriate to thank the recipient before signing off with a greeting like 'Regards,' followed by your full name and designation. Most e-mail providers allow you to customize your signature. For your professional email address, it's a good idea to put your name, title, company, and work phone number in your signature. The final step involves checking the e-mail address of the recipient and revising the content of the e-mail. This is also the time to decide if you want to use CC and BCC. CC stands for Carbon Copy and is used to send an e-mail to multiple people at once while BCC stand for Blind Carbon Copy and is used when you don't want the recipients to know each other's e-mail IDs. Use CC when sending an email to lots of people at the same time or when emailing clients who may prefer to have their contact information be private. When copying your coworkers on a work email, you should use CC. Now that you have gone through the steps, it doesn't sound all that complicated, does it? And as they say, experience is the best teacher. Good luck in the professional world!