When you’re conducting business, your image is key. You want to be perceived as polished and professional. This may be easy for you when you’re interacting with a coworker or business associate in person. However, other forms of communication can present some unique challenges.
Take email, for instance. People like it because it’s a fast and easy way to communicate. You can use it any time of day from any location. It’s also an appealing choice when you need to have a difficult conversation. It allows you to truly think about your words and craft them carefully before hitting “send.”
Email Has Its Downsides
Despite its benefits, email has some downsides. Email often lacks context. People don’t always know how to interpret a message when it’s just words on a screen, rather than spoken by a person they can see and hear. Humor and sarcasm doesn’t always come off well, especially if you haven’t spent a lot of face-to-face time with the people you’re emailing.
Every time you send an email, you’re making an impression. You may not realize it, but you might be emailing in a way that makes you look immature and unprofessional. Of course this isn’t your intention. But when you’re regularly making the same mistakes in your emails, you could be damaging your reputation in the workplace. You might even unknowingly destroy professional relationships.
Tips for Sending Professional Emails
Here are some key do’s and don’ts for making the best impression with every work email you send!
Don’t Manipulate Via the CC Field
Carbon copying (CC) a third-party on an outgoing email to a coworker or work associate can be passive aggressiveness at its finest. Maybe you don’t see it this way, but it’s very possible to use CCing as a way of manipulating the recipient. For example, some people will CC a person of influence or authority to get something they want.
When you think about it, this is similar to what you did as a teenager: manipulating your parents by playing them against each other. You did it because you thought it was the best way to get something you wanted—and that might be exactly how you use the CC field in your emails sometimes.
When you manipulate via the CC field, you probably pretend that you’re doing it to keep others in the loop. But you’re not. You’re manipulating. Making this choice may actually damage your relationship with both the recipient and the person you’ve CCed. The person you’re emailing will see through the CCing. Their defenses will go up, and your tensions will rise. Do you really think that that the email recipient will end giving you what you want? No! The CCer will also see through the CCing. And if they’re an authority figure to you, the last thing you want them to see you as is immature.
You might be using the CC field because you want to hold the email recipient accountable to a deadline. If that’s the case, be more direct with your communication. Talk to the recipient in person rather than emailing them or, if that’s not an option, pick up the phone and call them. Show the person that you trust and respect them enough to be straightforward with them.
Use Professional Verbiage
As technology evolves, we use words less. Emojis, GIFs, and memes are commonplace in communication thanks to social media and texting. But emojis, emoticons, and slang have no place in professional communications. Even though all of these may be acceptable (or even expected) in personal emails, you should avoid them in your work emails.
You should also limit your use of abbreviations and acronyms. If you feel the need to use them, clarify what they mean the first time you use them. Usually a great way to do this is by writing out the meaning in parentheses. Don’t ever make the mistake of assuming that someone knows what you are talking about. You’ll lose valuable time when you end up exchanging multiple emails with the recipient just to explain what you mean. In a worst-case scenario, the recipient may end up ignoring you because they don’t understand something in your email.
There may be times when you think an emoji is necessary to convey your intent. Sarcasm is a great example of this. In those situations, opt to omit those sections altogether rather than include them with emojis. If you think that a section with an emoji is absolutely necessary, ask yourself: should you really be communicating this over email? You should maybe pick up the phone instead of sending that email. That will give the recipient more context based on your tone of voice, etc.
Don’t Make Major Assumptions
When you send an email, don’t ever expect your recipient to remember who you are on their own. Even if you just met the email recipient yesterday, you never know what that person has going on in their life. They might draw a blank when trying to attach your name to your face. Remembering who you are based on your email address may not be the easiest thing for them. They may meet a lot of new people and have trouble with names.
If someone doesn’t remember who you are, they will delete your email immediately. They might think your email is spam or a mistake that’s been sent to the person. There’s a simple solution to prevent this: introduce yourself. At the beginning of your email, tell your recipient who you are and where you met them. Give them concrete details that jog their memories and open them up to whatever you have to say in your email.
It’s time for your emails to accurately reflect your age! When you take this advice, you can confidently send emails knowing you’ll be making a strong positive impression on your recipient. You’ll come across as a polished professional who knows how to email with class.
Carson Tate is a renowned coach, teacher, and creator of the Productivity Style Assessment® with expertise in providing simple solutions that transform individuals’ personal and professional lives. Learn more about her philosophy and strategies for productivity by visiting carsontate.com.