Have you ever heard of ‘business email etiquette?’ At a first mention, you may imagine email etiquette referring to the timeliness of an email response or the importance of sending a follow-up email after a significant phone conversation. There’s actually a big piece of it that most people in business today are missing. Did you know that 93% of all communication is nonverbal? Seriously! All of your head nods, smiles, and even glazed over eyes mean so much more to your message recipient than we realize. It confirms that you’re receiving the message as it was intended. It encourages them when you appear interested in what they are saying. And most importantly, rapport is built.
Knowing what we now know about nonverbal communication, isn’t it that much more important to carefully write and review your emails at the office? The truth is, most people don’t. The everyday office worker believes that an email is a quick way of communicating and this isn’t just a millennial problem; it’s a problem that effects every generation. So, what now? Today, I’m going to take the guess work out of email and walk you through the 4 Things You Didn’t Know About Business Email Etiquette.
1- THE OREO
Have you heard of the email ‘oreo?’ It’s possible that I made that term up but it’s hands down the simplest way to make your emails sound friendly. When recipients read your email, they interpret your tone based on what you write because they can’t hear your voice. If it’s all business, you can sound unfriendly or rude even if it wasn’t your intent. So, what is the oreo?
‘The oreo’ method is a format for your emails to ensure they come across as friendly every time. For almost every email that I write, I follow this format: greeting, opener, body, closer, and greeting. The greeting is saying hello and goodbye. For most business emails, they start out with hi or hello and end with Kind Regards or Thank you. The opener and closer is basically small talk! Think of it as what you would say if you were on the phone with someone. A few common business examples include: I hope you’re having a good week or Enjoy your weekend. Lastly, the body is your purpose for writing the email.
Example: This example is warm and friendly. The opener helps build rapport, the body communicates the purpose efficiently, and then the closer let’s them know that you support them. It’s amazing how many people in the office say ‘sorry to bother you.’ I want my business relationships to be strong and I never want them to feel like they’re a bother or they can’t come to me. Without this method, your emails may come across as unenthusiastic or even rude.
In this particular example, a phone conversation took place first so Amy already heard Kate’s tone of voice. But had they not spoken on the phone, how would she know Kate’s true tone? As unimportant as it may seem, that little ‘it was great talking to you’ greeting made a big difference.
Punctuation is another huge point that can really help get your true message and tone across. If your sentences are short and contain nothing but periods, it can come across as unfriendly or even robotic. When I write emails, I always throw in an exclamation mark here and there. On the same point, you don’t want to go too crazy otherwise you’ll seem over-excited. Let’s just say you want to be interpreted as having just the right amount of professional enthusiasm. When the recipient can’t hear your voice, these little details go a long way!
Example: This example has the perfect balance of professionalism and enthusiasm. It puts Amy at ease that her needs are taken care of and let’s her know that there isn’t anything else needed from her. With the placement of the exclamation marks and the words chosen, Amy will feel relieved that her message was heard and she can now check one more thing off her to-do list.
Do you know what connotation is? According to Dictionary.com, connotation is an ‘idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning.’ This means that a word can make us feel a certain way, even if it isn’t technically defined as such. While it can be different from person to person, there are many words that have a common positive or negative connotation.
For example, the word ‘cheap’ makes me cringe because it’s often used when referring to the quality of something. This is a negative connotation while the word ‘inexpensive’ has a much more positive connotation because it indicates that you’re saving money. This car is cheap. This car is inexpensive. Which do you prefer?
Pronouns can make a big difference in your emails. By this I don’t mean ‘he’ or ‘she,’ I mean ‘we’ and ‘us.’ When I write emails at the office, I always make sure to use the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘us’ because it indicates that we’re in this together. It comes across much nicer than ‘I’ and ‘you,’ which signifies that we’re on different teams. The word ‘you’ can also come across as demanding or accusatory.
Example: As you’ll notice, it isn’t possible to use only ‘we’ and ‘us’ in your emails but it’s especially useful when you’re giving an instruction. You’ll know when it feels right!
– Writing in all caps is commonly interpreted as yelling. Don’t do it!
– Using bold, italics, or underlining is obnoxious in office emails. It can make people feel like you aren’t confident in their ability to read the email in its entirety or you believe they can’t decipher what’s important.
– Always respond within 24-hours, even if it’s just to say that it may take a few days to accomplish what they need or you’re on the road and can’t respond until later.
What are your favorite business email etiquette tips? Have you had an email in your career that went completely misunderstood? Tell me your story! Post your office email story on Instagram and tag me (@theclosetbychristie) for a chance to be featured.