A large majority of businesses have taken their communication efforts online. Where we were once limited to regular mail and interoffice communications, we now have access to email and social networking. Sometimes we become comfortable with our coworkers and clients and when that happens, our emails can become less professional than they should be. The following are some rules you should follow to ensure your business communications are always on the up and up.
Formal Business Email Addresses
First of all, make sure you have an email address for your personal communications and an email address for your business communications – two separate addresses. This will ensure you don’t end up with a business email box full of personal messages, chain letters, advertisements, and spam – increasing the odds of you losing an important email from a client or business partner.
Make sure your business email address is formal. You should not be using a Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail addresses for business communications. You should be using an email address associated with your business website server (ie. firstname.lastname@example.org). Don’t have one? They only cost a few dollars per month and will make you look far more professional.
Short and Concise Emails
Those of us who love to write have trouble with this concept from time to time, but your business emails should be short and sweet. Get to the point and ask or answer the question at hand quickly, with a brief explanation. If you can’t keep it brief, it may simply be easier and more professional to pick up the phone. You should also try to focus on one topic per email. Adding things that just come to mind will detract from the original message and you may not get the information you need or make the main point you intended.
CC, BCC, and Reply All
For the love of all that is good, learn to use the CC, BCC, and Reply All functions properly. These features are usually either misused or overused and they result in overfilled inboxes and aggravated recipients.
The CC feature is best for business communications where all of the concerned parties can and should know that others are included. If you are emailing everyone on a team working on a project, each member should know that the others are getting the same email. If you are a customer service rep helping a sales person manage a client’s request, the client should see that everyone is involved.
The BCC feature, or blind carbon copy, is for group emails where not everyone needs to know who is getting the message. For example, you are emailing your clients to let them know about a new promotion. Your clients don’t need to know who else got the email, and the BCC function prevents you from inadvertently exposing someone else’s email address to others when they’d prefer to keep it private.
The Reply to All function is perhaps the most annoying. If you were sent an email with others in the CC section, think carefully about whether or not everyone needs your response. Is your response intended as part of a group discussion? If so, use the Reply to All function. Is your response intended only for the person who sent the email? Use the Reply button and spare the rest of the group. You’d be amazed at the number of inappropriate arguments and conversations I’ve witnessed simply because people are petty and wanted to make a “scene” by replying to everyone on a list.
Keep Your Tone Level
Remember that email communications have no audible tone. Don’t attempt to be sarcastic or funny. What you hear in your head is not what your reader will see when he receives your email. What you intend to be a joke may actually offend a client or business partner, causing embarrassment and potential problems.
There are tons of things you can do to keep your emails professional. Don’t use emoticons, write concise subject lines, avoid chain letters, and remember – most importantly – that your business email is in no way, shape, or form private. Keep these ideas in mind and you’ll never make a regrettable business mistake.
About the Author: Loria Surrey would rather send an email than talk on the phone or leave a voicemail, but she tries her best to keep things short and sweet to avoid confusion and miscommunications.