Email is the preferred form of business communication in the modern world. The ability to write purposive, contextual and effective email is an important skill that executives should possess. To ensure that emails achieve the desired objectives, executives should keep in mind the following key points:
Making use of the subject line in a Business Email
Writing the subject in the email sets the context and grabs the recipient’s attention. When the message pertains to a series of routine emails (for instance, a project status report), a subject that reads “Project Status Report dated June 19” is more specific and effective than “Project Status Report”. If the email is intended to seek an action from the recipient, the subject line should read “Request your approval for travel to Amsterdam for client meeting” rather than “Travel approval requested”. In this instance, the subject line itself accomplishes the purpose of getting the recipient to respond.
Formal salutations are recommended in business emails when addressing people who are not familiar.
Business Email content
The opening paragraph should give the recipient a clear idea of what the message is all about. This should also state what action is required of the recipient and a timeline by when a response is expected. If the email is intended to just provide information, it should be clear, concise and complete. Usage of all capital letters is akin to screaming and should be strictly avoided.
Organizational policies regarding Business Emails
Most organizations have an “Acceptable Usage Policy” in place for email use. All employees are required to adhere to this policy. For instance, it would be explicitly forbidden to use email for personal communication or share offensive content. Similarly, emails criticizing the management or sharing confidential information would invite disciplinary action and may sometimes lead to termination from employment as well.
Business Email Etiquette
Unless absolutely required, it is not a good idea to use “Reply All” when responding to emails. Using the “Reply All” feature may have an unintended consequence as well. This exposes the email id of all recipients to everyone marked on the email. The “Bcc” feature can be used along with “Reply All” to prevent exposing email ids to the wider audience. The forwarding of offensive content or chain mails should obviously be strictly avoided.
When there is a need to communicate about different topics, it is better to write separate emails with a focus on one topic at a time. However, if there are multiple points that need to be communicated on the same subject, each point can be presented in a separate paragraph or bullet within the same email. This makes each point distinct and therefore improves the chances of each point being registered with the recipient.
Including contact information
It is important to include the job title, contact information and business address at the bottom of the email. Emails with contact information help recipients reach the sender by phone for a quick response and help identify the sender by job title and business information. Email “Signature” is a widely used feature to include this information and comes with all email applications.
The language should be completely professional and devoid of expressions that would be appropriate in social media.
When multiple files are being sent as attachments in an email, it is a good idea to list the attachments in the email itself and briefly explain what each attachment contains. The file names of attachments should be self-explanatory to the extent possible.
Superfluous email communication can lead to reduced employee productivity and adversely impact an organization’s financial performance. Other forms of communication may be available and work better than emails in some situations. And most importantly, it would be good to review the email after composing, before sending.