Email Etiquette is far lacked than owned by many. Sounds tough? Recollect how many times, have you received replies to your emails with single letters ‘K’, ‘S’, ‘Y?’ and so on. While we all could have also sent an aggressive email or a confusing message to our recipients. The ownership lies on both ends for a fruitful communication. This blogpost is going to highlight few email etiquette that we all can revisit and start implementing in our professional lives.
Recently, I went through a LinkedIn Learning course on Digital Communication Body Language. It was a short course of 25 minutes, which I highly recommend for all of us. The course was well structured into three different sections. The first section dealt with understanding the complexity of various new age communication channels that we use in our daily lives, and how important it is for us to understand the context. The second section highlighted the need to understand the nuances of messaging. The final section shared tips on usage of punctuations and managing power dynamics.
I have here summarized the key takeaways from the course, in case you find it difficult to go through the course. The key aspects of email etiquette include the following .
- Context: Set the context with enough detailing. Do not leave the recipient to assume anything about the context, which could lead to confusion
- Clarity: The communication message should be clear and lucid of the recipient to understand. The recipient shouldn’t be reading and re-reading to comprehend it or end up misunderstanding it.
- Emotional Tone: We need to keep a check on the perceived emotional tone of the message. In an email communication, as it’s difficult to notice the facial expressions and body language, the choice of our text will speak much louder. Hence, we need to be very careful with it.
- Punctuation: The use of punctuation is also an important email etiquette that would lead to define the emotional tone of the message
- Call to Action: Most importantly, it’s very essential to define the call to action for the recipient. Unless it’s defined clearly, the recipient may respond in an unintentional manner or ignore to respond.
- Brevity: We all like brevity these days. However, brevity shouldn’t be an excuse for an unclear message. The efficient email etiquette lies in combining brevity with clarity
- Recipient Selection and Prioritization: Often we end up including many recipients on the email, without giving a thought that if the particular email would be of any purpose for them. Selecting and prioritizing the recipients is another key aspect of email etiquette. Hence, not only making the right choice of recipients is important, but also decision on who should be included in the ‘To’ list, and who should be on ‘CC’ or ‘BCC’ list should be a conscious choice. Many a times we might end up addressing the email to a person who is marked in the ‘CC’ list, which should be avoided.
- Reread: Yes, we all are in a hurry. But, before clicking on that ‘Send’ button, it would help to read the email once more and ensure no confusions are left for the recipient to deal with.
- Slowdown: I liked this tip from the course: “Less haste leads to quicker understanding and trust building”. We are often in a hurry to respond the emails that come our way. It’s a good habit, but we need to be also wary about the clarity that we ensure in our emails. It would help to take few extra minutes and ensure the best possible message is shared.
- Right Timing: Schedule your email or choose to respond or send an email considering an optimal time.Especially, when you are sharing an email with recipients from various timezones in the world, one needs to be cautious to ensure we get responses in time.
Digital Body Language Signals
We often tend to use punctuation marks like Exclamation (!), Questions (?) or Emoticons (J) in our professional emails to express our emotion. Though these seem to be trivial, and we use them at ease, they have some serious connotations that could jeopardize the way your message is comprehended by the recipient. Let’s make it a point to use them judiciously with the help of below tips. So what do they signify?
- ! – Basic human warmth
- !! – Excitement
- !!! – Enthusiasm
- !!!! – Sarcasm, wit, anger, giddiness
- ? – an honest question or genuine interest
- ?? – confusion
- ??? – frustration
- ???? – anger
Thanks to the extensive usage of emoticons in our daily lives on social media, instant messengers, chat platforms we sub-consciously end up using them in our professional emails too. Well, it might help to convey your emotions, but at times it might be perceived to be an unprofessional email etiquette by the recipient. Hence, choice of appropriate emoticons and the context should be well-judged.
Finally it’s key to understand the Power Dynamics while we communicate over emails. So, what’s Power Dynamics?
Managing Power Dynamics
Power Dynamics is an understanding and evaluating the comfort level between the sender and recipient basis two key factors – Power in their relationship and Trust that they have for each other. If these two factors were put in the form of a two by two matrix, the key actions to be taken would look as shown in the image below.
- Power: High, Trust: High – It means both sender and recipient know each other very well, probably for years and have a good comfort level. In this case usage of brevity would be common, as both would have adequate judgment about each other and hence detailed explanation may not be needed.
- Power: High, Trust: Low – It’s a slightly difficult situation to be in. In such cases, it would help to show appreciation for the recipient’s thoughts and acknowledge them.
- Power: Low, Trust: High – This is still a better situation to be in. The trick would be to be responsive and keep the messaging clear.
- Power: Low, Trust: Low – It’s a difficult situation and would require lot of effort before you hit that ‘Send’ button. Usually one could face this at early instance of the career. Ensure that the message is comprehensive enough with detailed background context shared, message is clear, the responses are within certain time and call to actions clearly defined. Effort should be put in to avoid any level of ambiguity.
It was a nice refreshing course of just 25 minutes. I highly recommend you all to go through the course .