Sincerely yours, Best, With care, Love, Thank you, Regards, Sincerely… the list goes on. How sincere is email writing in general? When should I email? How should I email? How should I sound? How do I explain this clearly?
These are some of the many questions I used to ask myself when I first started working in a professional setting. I quickly realized that the forms of communication with colleagues and superiors contrasted sharply with the way things went down in the boisterous world of the “biz” (aka the service industry). My first fancy job offered a perfect opportunity to transition into more formal ways of communicating with co-workers; I started as a substitute teacher. There was alot of emailing and early morning phone calls. Very early morning phone calls. The school day started at 7:45 am. Subs were called around 5am for same day coverage. Emails were sent in advance for multi-day coverage with a list of dates.
Taking the calls at 5am was, believe-it-or-not, easier for me to respond to than the emails. At such an early hour, conversation and formalities are minimal. It was the emailing that required the most getting used to. Looking back, as a rookie, I’m proud of the fact that I chose to play it safe when it came to emails. I was definitely overly preoccupied with every word choice. I edited and revised my responses way too much, but it was through this obsessive focus that I never came off unprofessional or rude. I probably sounded “too professional,” overly formal, however this is better than appearing disinterested, lazy or inept.
How did I find my emailing voice?
At first, simply from imitation and personal taste. If I received an email from work that put me off, I noted not to sound like that in my emails. When I was impressed and left with clarity, I literally picked up the emailer’s techniques.
I learned the following from my superiors and colleagues early on:
- Avoid conveying too much emotion. For positive feedback, I stick with “pleased.” For negative feedback (which I do my best to avoid communicating through email), I stick with “concerned.”
- Keep sentences as brief and simple as possible. This does not mean the ideas are not sophisticated; this means that your sophisticated ideas will be expressed with precision and clarity.
- If it is a very complex idea, you can provide a brief illustrative example.
- Review your content quickly before sending; edit out word clutter like “is that to be;” remove repetitive info and words. Most likely, the person reading your email has as little time as you; help them by being sharp and clear.
- Avoid long paragraphs. Convey an idea in two to four sentences; then offer the reader some white space to absorb the information in a step by step process.
- Avoid using more than one exclamation point per email. One “!” can be sweet, but too many elicits too many emotional connotations, or worse, unprofessionalism.
- If you are making a request or asking a favor from your colleague, write without guilt or apologies. Ask, be grateful and then await response, otherwise, you can come off as insecure or neurotic.
- If the email is longer begin with “Dear…” If the email is more of a quick note, the person’s name with a comma suffices. Now, regarding titles like Ms. or Dr. etc, follow the same routine that you use verbally. In other words, how do you refer to this co-worker in the real world.
- If returning from a break, or if re-connecting after some time, always begin content with a polite postiive inquiry. My staple is, “I hope all is well.”
- If you have never met the person, use “Dear,” his/her title, his/her full name.
- When closing the email, I always dedicate a a full line to a simple, “Thank you.”
- When signing out, stick to the one word “goodbyes” like “Best,” or “Regards.”
- Create and use a self-designed professional signature with your name, degree and whatever contact info is required. Do not use this detail as a form of self-promotion. Keep out the social media names. All must be work related.
Above all be clear, confident and kind.