Friday, January 17, 2014

Email Etiquette: Guidelines and Blunders - Part 4

I continue with my series on guidelines to follow and blunders to avoid when writing professional email.  If you missed the earlier posts, you can find them here:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Now that you've written most of the content of the email, let's turn our attention to the last few guidelines to follow before hitting that big 'send' button.  The advice on these last pieces is similar to the advice I gave on the opening salutation/address: there are no concrete rules to follow here, so you'll want to quickly consider your email and the audience, in order to come up with something that works.  

Email Guideline #6:
Signing Off

After the body of your email, add a short sign-off.  By "Sign-Off" I'm talking about a last sentence at the bottom of the email.  If you requested somebody get back to you, or you asked for information, you could write something like: "When you have a chance, please let me know what you think."  If you think your email may spark questions or need clarification you can add: "If you have any questions, or need any other info, please let me know."  Or, if you were thanking somebody for their help on something you could write: "Thanks again for your help." or "I appreciate the quick turn-around on this, it really helped my team."  While these may seem like cookie-cutter, generic sentences (and they are), they are simply examples to get the juices flowing - feel free to add your own voice.  Just make sure your voice matches the tone of the email, and remember that, in general, you are going for a "professional and friendly" tone.  

Email Guideline #7:
Your Closing Salutation

After your sign-off sentence, add your closing salutation followed by your first name.  Here again, remember your audience and your intended tone.  For example, a "Your beloved," "Love," "Thinking of you," or "Peace out," probably won't come into play in a professional email (for obvious reasons).  Some standards in the business world include: "Sincerely," "Thanks," "Best," or "Regards,".  You may consider having one that you use as your standard, then deviate from it when you feel the need to add an extra touch.  For example, using "All the best," on occasion or "Thanks again," when you are saying thanks and mean it (as opposed to just using it as a default goodbye).  

If you are in the middle of a back-and-forth, an extra closing can start to feel stiff - even more, overuse could start to render your initial "Thanks," as an even more meaningless formality.  For this reason, feel free to go down to just your first name or place a "-" in front ("- Mark", in my case).  Just be sure to add some sort of salutation to identify who sent the email (some email clients are better than others at reporting who said what).

In some cases of comfort, you may decide you want to go outside the norm for your default sign-off.  This is fine, as long as you consider your existing relationship with your recipients.  For example, if you tend to default to "Stay fantastic," with your co-workers, you may want to re-evaluate before sending an email to somebody outside your company with that closing.

One quick note on exclamation marks in place of commas for closing an email:
The use of exclamation marks in closings has taken hold - especially in the use of "Cheers!", "Thanks!", "Thanks again!" or "Thanks!!!!!!!"  I have one friend who says you can tell how much she appreciates you by how many exclamations marks she adds to her "Thanks!"  While this has become a convention for intra-office email, you may (yet again) want to consider your relationship with the recipient before going overboard with such exuberance.  In some work environments an exclamation mark is rather expected, and a comma in your email can seem terse by comparison.  If you are in an atmosphere like this though, you will quickly come to realize it by observing those around you, and nobody will hold it against you if you were initially a bit formal.

Email Guideline #8:
Your Signature

The last thing you should add to your email after the closing is your signature.  This can definitely be a default, and all email clients/providers should have a feature for you to set up an auto-sign feature.  It should (at the minimum) include your full name and your email address.  If you want to give people the option to reach you by phone or if you work in a large office, add your extension/phone number.  If you work at a large company, add your department and title.  If you are an independent contractor, freelancer, or you are sending email outside the company, consider adding your URL so people can learn more about you and your services. Depending on the nature of your business and the content of the email, adding a social link (i.e. your Twitter handle), may also be appropriate.  If you are soliciting outside business, it may be appropriate to include your logo or a SMALL call-to-action (i.e. "More info at:").

The only big guideline to consider here is that (yet again) if you go outside the box, make sure it is for a reason and that it is appropriate.  Besides this general guideline, just ensure that your signature is formatted nicely and isn't full of frivolous copy, images, or random characters.

Now that we've gone over almost all of the general guidelines, you should have a good idea how to write successful professional and business-related email.  After this, we'll turn our attention to proofreading, and start to discuss email blunders that you should avoid.

Comments?  Feel free to share below!  

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