Professional E-Mail Messages
The most common form of communication in the workplace is e-mail. People’s professionalism is often judged by how they communicate online.
E-mail can serve different functions: to inform, invite, request, thank, apologize, confirm, or to develop a relationship.
The language/words used depends on whom you’re sending the message to and your relationship with them.
The tone of an email, which expresses a mood or emotion, should be respectful and formal, yet friendly, particularly with supervisors and managers. E-mails, after all, do not give the sender the advantage of facial expressions and other non-verbal language used in face-to-face encounters, which can be used to modify one’s message to avoid giving offense or creating a misunderstanding.
E-mail messages sent at work must follow stricter guidelines than casual e-mail messages sent to friends.
The following are some basic rules of e-mail etiquette:
- Always include a clear subject line using words that focus on the topic of the message. This gives the reader a reference point. Use a different subject line for each separate message
- The salutation should be ‘Dear Ms./Mr.______’ when writing to a manager or supervisor – unless you’re on a first- name-basis with them. Avoid ‘flowery’ language like “Most Highly Esteemed Sir/Madam”
- Keep the message brief, but not so brief so as to appear rude or impatient. For example, do not reply to a detailed memo with words like “Me too” or “Good idea”. The response should be of an appropriate length
- A prompt response to someone’s e-mail is best. Don’t ignore it. Try to respond within a day
- Do not use emoticons (smiley faces, ASCII characters), especially in e-mails to people you don’t know well
- Do not use all capital letters; this is considered the equivalent of shouting
- Limit the use of abbreviations, such as FYI, PLS, THX or ASAP. Abbreviations like e.g., i.e and etc. are acceptable
- Do not keep replying to and sending the same e-mail about one subject over and over. Start a new email
- Never write or send an e-mail when you’re angry: the ‘tone’ in your e-mail is likely to offend the receiver, or give the wrong impression
- The signature at the end of the message should be short
- Read your message before you send it to make sure your message is clear.