All of us experience the joy of email each and every week. Whether you’re the master of your inbox or struggling to stay afloat, it’s always helpful to learn from others. These ten reminders from They Don’t Teach Corporate in College are important whether you are just starting out in the corporate world or you’ve been a resident for decades.
“For email, the old postcard rule applies. Nobody else should read your postcards, but you’d be a fool if you wrote anything private on one.” -Judith Martin
Alexandra Levit is the author of eight books including They Don’t Teach Corporate in College and Humanity Works. She is a former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and writer for the New York Times, Fast Company, and Forbes.
And now Alexandra’s guest excerpt:
The majority of written communication now takes place through email, which can be rather complicated. You still want to follow the C&C and Quality Control rules of regular written communication, but you also have to balance a multitude of considerations that are unique to the medium of email.
Email can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Here are a few tips to make it work for you.
Top 10 Tips for Smart Email Communication
Realize that email is not private. Not only can your company’s IT department access it, but you also never know to whom your messages might be forwarded— accidentally or intentionally. Avoid discussing sensitive information or writing anything negative unless it’s specifically requested by your boss and/or supported by fact.
Maintain a consistent professional persona. You can achieve this by crafting friendly, polite, and grammatically correct messages. Because you can’t rely on voice or nonverbal cues, always reread your emails to make sure the message you are sending is professional and clear. Don’t get too cutesy with your emoticons or acronyms (LOL, BRB).
Keep emails short and to the point. Make sure to include\ an informative and specific subject line (for example, don’t just call the message “Update”). Begin with a call to action that encourages the person to read the message (starting with the word you usually does the trick). Put your key message up front, and if the information you must communicate is longer than two to three paragraphs, attach a document with the relevant details.
Use email to reinforce in-person conversations. Summarize meetings, impart helpful information (for example, FYI—For Your Information”—messages), or respond appropriately to an important issue (for example, CYA—“Cover Your Ass”—messages) via email to reinforce face-to-face discussions you have with colleagues.
Don’t use email as a forum to express displeasure or criticize. Do these things in person rather than take the easy way out. If you must highlight a problem in an email, be positive and solution-oriented.
Use email sparingly. Carbon copy (CC) your boss only on messages that clearly demonstrate you are doing your job. Avoid sending him thousands of emails unless you want him to stop reading them.
Use flags and read receipts. When sending an important message, draw attention to it in some way so that the recipient is not tempted to ignore it.
Be courteous. In general, it is considered rude to email a question to anyone sitting within ten feet of you. Make an effort to speak to these people face to face.
Know what you are sending before you send it. Before hitting Reply, carefully read an email in its entirety. If it’s preceded by a series of messages, make sure to read and understand the whole string first.
Keep personal emails personal. If you want to send personal emails at work, set up a separate account. Don’t forward too much non-work-related content to your work friends unless they also qualify as real friends
Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Career Press, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College by Alexandra Levit is available wherever books and ebooks are sold.
For more information, see They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.