The Art And Etiquette Of E-Mail: Making A Connection

E-mail is the heart and soul of all communication these days. You do it at work. You do it at home. You text on your cell phone. Your most prevalent contact with your customers is via electronic mail, but are you making the right impression?

E-Mail Image

E-mail is the heart and soul of all communication these days. You do it at work. You do it at home. You text on your cell phone. Your most prevalent contact with your customers is via electronic mail, but are you making the right impression?

The written word is an art form, and connecting with people requires some etiquette. What you say to others has a direct impact on their reflections of you. So, the next time you write an e-mail to a customer or colleague, consider some of the following etiquette suggestions:

Your tone. Because the reader misses out on the nuances of your verbal and visual delivery, the result is often miscommunication or misunderstandings. Every time you write an e-mail, make sure to edit it before you send it. Consider saving it in your drafts folder to re-read and edit later.

Don’t forget to add “please” and “thank you.” Those two phrases can transform the snippiest of demands into a polite request.

Spelling and grammar. If your recipients are receiving e-mails from you that include spelling and grammar mistakes, your messages could be lost to them as they become distracted by the errors.

Be succinct. The amount of productive time that is wasted by reading overly long missives, dealing with junk mail or deleting spam is staggering. State your information briefly, get to the point and use a pleasant tone.

Never read or forward jokes at work. It’s unprofessional.

Watch your caps. It is generally accepted that writing with the capital letters lock on is the
same as screaming. Use grammatically correct upper and lower case letters.

Don’t “cc” everyone on the planet. If you get an e-mail that has been carbon copied to many people, make sure to reply only to the people who are capable of taking a direct action or whose job is directly affected.

For example, two years ago, I was involved in an e-mail barrage when a customer complained about something. The initial recipient carbon copied 11 people. Soon, 24 e-mails went back and forth with finger-pointing on whose fault the complaint was, with angry exchanges and with no resolutions.

All 24 e-mails went to all 11 people. That’s 264 e-mails—a waste of many hours of productive time in just one day. Later on that day, the vice president of operations asked me why the initial recipient included her on these e-mails when it had nothing to do with her, and no resolution was achieved. Good question. That leads me to…

If you receive an e-mail that requires a dialogue, pick up the phone. Don’t point fingers. Take the time to gather your facts, count to ten and make the call. Once the problem is identified and the resolution is achieved, reply to that e-mail, including all of the people who were copied on it. Explain it in a succinct, professional tone.

Assume that any message you send is permanent and likely to be forwarded to others. Also, make sure that when you forward an e-mail, you are not forwarding any sensitive information that could be included in the e-mail string.

Never use e-mail to reprimand someone. Reprimands should be conducted in person or over the phone.

Never express political or religious opinions via e-mail. Controversial topics should not be discussed via office e-mail.

Use humor and sarcasm sparingly. Recipients may not get the joke.

Provide relevant content in all e-mails. Irrelevant information blurs the message.

Determine what your customer/co-worker is really trying to say. Ignore the tone and concentrate on the message.

Respond to all e-mails within 24 hours. The sooner, the better.

Follow through. Make sure that your messages are understood and that problems are resolved.

In our desire to be more efficient within our hectic schedules, we might overlook the basic tenets of good communication. But you can maintain a connection with customers and co-workers. Just take your time and follow the guidelines.