Considering that businesspeople spend about a third of the day just reading emails, we could all likely do our jobs better if we improved our email skills.
In the second of a two-part series on email, etiquette expert Lynne Breil shares more advice on how to be a more polite and productive email communicator. If you missed her tips in last month’s (March) column, visit www.smallmarketmeetings.com and read the digital edition.
Here are Breil’s tips:
Failing to respond is just plain rude.
Email makes it easy to avoid people or issues, and that is bad business. When we don’t get responses to our emails, we begin to waste time and brain power with worry. We think: “They no longer want my business,” or “He hates my proposal.”
“We can hide behind it and not respond if we choose,” said Breil, “but if you want to maintain your good reputation, then you need to be responsive — radically responsive.” If you aren’t responding because you don’t have an answer or the information the person seeks, instead of delaying Breil recommends sending a “bridge” email. “Just say something like, ‘I got your email, and I’m off-site at a meeting and will get back to you as soon as I return.’”
Emails need greetings and goodbyes.
Breil remembers the time she sent a quick email to a group about a meeting. “It said, ‘We are meeting at 11:30. Bring your notes.’ One of the recipients fired back, ‘Well, good morning to you, too!’”
“People like a greeting because it is a common courtesy,” Breil said. But it doesn’t have to be the traditional ‘Dear.’ “It can be something that flows naturally, like ‘Thanks, Vickie, it is good to hear back from you’ or ‘Great idea, Vickie!’” Breil said.
A fitting ending is harder. Breil is not a fan of “regards” (“Who still says that?” she said), “Best” (“It doesn’t say anything”), “Warmest regards” (“Gushy”), or “Sincerely” (“Seems fake”). Instead, she recommends a closing that blends with the conversation, such as “Give me a call, and thanks.” She sometimes adds a P.S. for information that is more personal. An example might be: “P.S. I know your vacation is coming up; I hope you have a great time!” or “I heard you were honored by the chamber of commerce. Congratulations!”
Contact information is critical.
One of Breil’s pet peeves is emails that lack the sender’s contact information. She suggests creating several signature lines that fit different audiences and occasions. “I have a long version and a short version of mine,” she said. She’s not a fan of fancied-up signatures that include colored backgrounds, photos and, especially, words of wisdom. “If I want a quote of the day, I will buy the calendar,” she said. Make sure your signature line appears at the end of your message; as Breil points out, you don’t want a recipient to have to scroll down through a string of 20 messages to find your phone number.
Know when to dial instead of type.
Email isn’t appropriate for every message. Don’t use it, Breil said, if you are giving criticism, discussing job performance, relaying emotionally charged information, expecting a response after business hours, notifying others that you are running late or trying to solve a complex problem. “If I have gone back and forth three times on email with the same subject, it is time to pick up the phone,” she said. “Email is not one-size-fits-all for business.”
To reach Lynne Breil, call 717-755-3333 or visit www.theprofessionaledgeinc.com.