For the past two years, I had been overwhelmed with email. Working in higher education, I was receiving, on average, 150 to 200 messages a day. These messages did not include the listservs and professional membership messages I would receive in my personal account. As time passed, the professionalism of the messages I received greatly declined and to be honest, when a person was not professional in their electronic correspondence, the likelihood of me wanting to do business with them decreased.
After receiving a lengthy message from one of my staff, I decided to jot down some basic professional email etiquette.
- Utilize the subject line. Everyone’s inbox is overwhelming, if you want your message read, make sure the subject line has the appropriate heading.
- Keep it short and relevant. No one has time to read lengthy messages. Make sure your message is in keeping with the subject and if you have multiple points to discuss, please use bullet points. I like to keep my messages to less than 250 words, however, this is no rule in regards to the appropriate length for an email. Use the amount of words necessary to get the message conveyed.
- Have the appropriate tone. In professional messages, do not use CAPS, since it signifies yelling. Also, do not use text language; I will not take you seriously. However, since email should be brief feel free to use an appropriate emoticon prevent the reader from thinking you are angry or rude. This does not mean to use multiple emoticons.
- Don’t send a message if it is not necessary. If your response is going to be one or two words, such as received or thanks, please do not send the message. You should have already conveyed your gratitude previously.
- Reply to messages within one business day. I know that the inbox can be overwhelming and your first inclination is to only respond to messages that are important, however, you will lose valuable business relationships if you do not respond to messages within one business day. Even if you cannot get to a request, let the individual know the message was received and give them a timeline for responding back.
If everyone could follow these basic 5 rules, managing one’s inbox shall not be difficult and it will strengthen your professional network.