The Etiquette of Email

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By Gary Pudles

This past year, one of my senior directo­rs gave a presentation about effective email communication to the attendees of our annual national meeting. It was important to me to provide this training because emails can be easily misinterpreted. In fact, 80% or more of our intention when delivering information is derived from facial expression, voice tone and body language. These signals are not there in an email, text or even a letter. So how do you maintain  etiquette in written (in this case, email) communication, while still getting your point across?

First, consider re-reading your whole message, out loud, before you hit send. When you hear the words, you may know immediately how they sound to a reader. Or step away from your message for a little while. By giving yourself a few minutes after you finish constructing the message, the possibility of error or misinterpretation is vastly reduced. Also, reading it from the recipient’s perspective is any easy way to gauge if the tone of the message is appropriate. “Do you have moment today to discuss this project?” sounds a lot better to your reader than “I need to discuss this project today.”

Don’t forget the subject line either. The subject line is an underrated part of email etiquette and effective communication. You want to give the reader the message’s bottom line, and highlight action items to set expectations. “Invitation to Department Brunch, Please Reply” is more effective than “Department Brunch.”

The most important thing to remember is that writing an email is like telling a story. Knowing how to frame and deliver your story, and packaging your message transcends the business environment. It improves your life. You should write your email with a defined beginning, middle and end. Keeping that sequence will help you organize your thoughts and avoid errors.

These are just a few suggestions to improve your email etiquette. You will be surprised about how just these three little steps can improve your communication. By reading your messages thoroughly, providing simple yet clear subject lines and writing your emails in a clear and organized manner, you avoid making mistakes and confusing your reader all the while saving you time, money and an unnecessary headache.

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