At first glance, the business email to-do-list appears way too long and complicated, especially to employees just starting out. While it’s fair to say that every one of us has made one mistake or another over the course of our professional lives, it also holds true that many items are quite logical.
Common Writing Mistakes
Imagine writing a semi-formal-style essay. Business email should be composed in a similar fashion (except they should be considerably shorter, of course). First and foremost, business email must be literate. Secondly, they must be polite and concise. Thirdly, they should use understandable language. No one wants to have to use a dictionary to decipher a business message. Finally, balance the levels of formality. Certainly, it is rude to address the recipient with “Hey you,” but honorifics aren’t always recommended, either. Go for the option that reflects your relationship with the recipient. It’s either the first/last name basis or a simple greeting (“Hello” or “Good day,” for example).
A business email should be conclusive. Incomplete messages are not only confusing but are also completely useless. Think about what you are trying to say before putting your thoughts in the written form. Imagine talking to the recipient. How would you convey the message in as few words as possible? This means you should absolutely exclude all unnecessary info, filler words included.
Finally, mind the subject lines. They should enable the recipient to understand at a first glance what the message is all about and whether it is urgent or not. Which brings us to the first big mistake to avoid.
Don’t Expect an Immediate Reply
It is commonly reported that the majority of people spend way too much time checking and replying to emails. Because of that, many people attempt to address only urgent messages immediately, while others are left for later and usually accessed during a designated time for email checking.
Sending all messages with the high-priority flag is, hence, a huge no-go. Make certain to do this only when the messages are actually urgent and cannot wait. For all other messages, don’t expect recipients to reply within minutes and don’t send them follow-up emails to that end. The practice is considered rude, mildly put.
Note: While we are still in the midst of unusual times, you may expect a longer delay than usual. Remember that people are having a difficult time with productivity and boosting their moods during social distancing, so email replies may not always be their top priorities
Reply and Reply All: Choose Wisely
Always think twice before hitting the “Reply All” button. There are many messages with multiple recipients, but not all replies consider everyone. In fact, it is rarely so. Often, one person will ask a direct question to another and not everyone needs to be included in the conversation.
To, CC and BCC Are Not Interchangeable
Another common mistake is confusing To, CC, and BCC fields. The distinction falls largely under “netiquette,” and it only takes a couple of minutes to finally memorize the difference for all times.
The To field is used for the main recipient or recipients. In short, it’s for people expected to take action in response.
The CC (Carbon Copy) field is used for the recipients who need to receive the email copy but not take action in response. This field is often used to show the recipient that higher-ups are also paying attention.
The BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field is used for the recipients who need to receive the email copy. The difference between the CC and the BCC field is that the latter doesn’t display the email addresses (hence, the “blind” in the term). Most commonly, it is used when there are multiple recipients, but the sender doesn’t want them to see each other’s email addresses. A common example of the practice is a mailing list.
Don’t Skip on In-Line Replies
Long- and multiple threads typical of emails sent to multiple recipients can get messy if not completely impossible to keep track of at all. That’s where replying in-line steps come into play. Basically, it means that you should, whenever applicable, reply within the message body instead of on top of it.
The first obvious benefit of this is that it saves the recipients the trouble of endless scrolling to get to the point. It also saves the time you’d otherwise be spending on quotations.
Much can be said about in-line replies, but we’ll address just the basics here. First and foremost, simply writing replies below the snippets of the text in bold is not the best of practices. Imagine everyone responding in that way. Soon enough there will be loads of bold text no easier to keep track of than regular text. In addition, some recipients may not be able to see the formatting.
Here are some tips on how to ace in-line formatting:
- Write your name before the reply and ask all recipients to do likewise
- Use bullet points for multi-level replies
- Use line breaks
Use One Font Throughout the Message
It is quite often that we come across people who think unusual fonts are a great idea. While they may be for some other occasions, this doesn’t hold true for emails. Simple fonts (especially those that are readable on mobile devices), such as Times New Roman, Arial, and Calibri, are always the best choice.
Also, don’t combine multiple fonts. It will make the message more difficult to scan (and read). If you need to make a sentence stand out, underline or bold it.
Every Email Must Include a Proper Greeting and Closing
This statement may sound obvious, but you might be surprised to learn how many people actually forget greetings and closings! Never do that!
A simple greeting may be sufficient, especially if there are multiple recipients, so “Hello” or “Dear” will do the trick. If you are addressing one recipient formally, greet them by name.
In a similar fashion, make certain to add your contact information at the end of the message. Just because the recipient sees your email address doesn’t mean they will remember what division or company you belong to. It is also common courtesy.
As you can see, much can be said about the art of composing business email. We have listed only the most common mistakes to avoid, but there are many more. Still, it’s not good to stress overmuch over a to-do list when writing each and every message, so use common sense. Be polite, literate, concise, and clever in your replica style. Finally, make clear and short subject lines. If you do all this, your emails will start witnessing peak performance soon enough.
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