Using Email Appropriately At Work

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Did you use email this week while you were at work? If so, how much thought did you give to what you wrote before clicking that send button?

Probably not enough.

It’s easy to come off badly in an email and not be aware of it. Lack of face-to-face interaction means we’re often far too careless in what we say, while misunderstandings become more likely due to the absence of nonverbal cues that we use every day to interpret meaning.

Email also gives a false sense of privacy that can lure users into doing things they’d never consider if they knew what they were sending would be made public.

With all these pitfalls, it pays to have a plan. Here are some guidelines to help ensure that your email usage enhances rather than detracts from your professional image.


Put On Your Public Face

Always assume that your emails are both permanent and public. Write as though everyone in the company may read it … because they just might.

Start with a salutation, just like in a letter.

Be brief and to the point. Use bullets when necessary.

Avoid being overly familiar or using cute language, jokes, abbreviations, and emoticons.

Use a polite sign-off that includes your name, title, and contact information. Avoid using email signatures unless they are company approved.

Never disparage or insult other employees (and certainly not your supervisor) in a work email. Once you hit that send button, you put your confidentiality in the hands of someone else. And remember, your IT staff can read everything you send through company servers.

Proof Read

Misspellings and grammatical errors make you look sloppy and unprofessional. Take a few seconds to proof your emails before sending them out.

Check for clarity as well as grammar and spelling. Eliminate extraneous language and be sure that you’ve stayed on-topic.

Double-check your tone. A quick note without a greeting can seem curt and rude, even if it wasn’t intended to be.

Write your email before filling in your “to” list to avoid accidentally sending an email before it’s finished.

Email gives a false sense of privacy that can lure users into doing things they’d never consider if they knew what they were sending would be made public.

Follow Proper Email Etiquette

Building good email habits improves efficiency and organization while cutting down on misunderstandings.

Reply to emails promptly, even if you don’t have an immediate answer or solution. This assures that the sender doesn’t feel ignored or put on the back burner.

Title your subject line with the topic at hand and stick to it. It makes it easier to track down previous communications if you ever need to reference old emails.

Include the previous message thread when replying in order to preserve a record of your communication.

Be judicious in using the “reply all” and “cc” functions.

Ask permission from the original sender before forwarding emails to anyone who wasn’t included in the original recipient list.

Avoid These Career Killers

Never dash off an email when you’re angry. You’re almost guaranteed to make a permanent record of yourself behaving in a less than professional manner.

Use work email only for business activity. Avoid forwarding chain mail, jokes, political rants, cartoons, and any nonbusiness items when using your company email address. Sending inappropriate email is one of the quickest ways to land you in hot water.

Image Counts

Your emails have a large impact upon how you’re viewed as a professional, especially with people who don’t see or speak to you regularly.

Using these guidelines will ensure that every message you send cements your image as a polished, on-the-ball professional.

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