How often do you use email to communicate with people? Sending a long message today to a person with whom I wasn’t in touch for many years made me think about it a lot. So, in this blog post, let’s talk about our emails! Are your emails consistent with your personal brand? How will people remember you after having only an email interaction?
What does your email tell about you?
There are several things that can be considered to make email a part of your digital image: original greeting and sign-off, great signature, brevity and clarity of your message… At the same time, being too inventive and original with those probably can be distracting and confusing.
Greetings and sign-offs
Many years ago, when preparing for a business writing module of my language test needed for immigration, I learnt by heart that an email started with a name of recipient (“Dear John”) should be signed off with “Yours sincerely”, but when you don’t know recipient’s name (“Dear Sir / Madam”), “Yours faithfully” should be used instead.
I passed my exams with 9 out of 9 final mark, but that’s interesting to note that once I started working in English speaking environment both with the US and Canada (UK to a lesser degree) based teams, none of my counterparts never (like in not a single time in my experience!) used those constructions!
Later, when discussing professional writing etiquette with business coaches and trainers, I repeatedly received the same answer to my “sincerely / faithfully” questions: it’s too formal. I was advised to use:
- “Hi Name” in most cases
- “Hey Name” in less formal communication
- “Hello” if name is unknown
- “Regards” as a sign-off
- Follow the communication style of an email counterpart once discussion is started
Of course that’s not one size fits all situation and you can take different approach to starting and ending your emails. Just remember that taking a hint from how your recipient communicates can give you a huge advantage.
How long should a business email be
Have you ever heard of three sentence rule for an email? Sometimes it’s being extended to five sentences, but its meaning is still as follows: Limit your business emails to three, maximum five, sentences.
If your message is lengthier, it’s probably worth a call. By being brief and to the point, you show respect to your recipient’s time and attention, and make it easier for them to act on your email.
Consider using three sentence rule next time you send a business email!
Another situation when you probably should choose a call over an email, is when your message is quite emotional.
In a verbal discussion, many issues can be resolved without hurting your relationships. On the other hand, it’s much harder to get over a heated argument when everything is written.
What are your thoughts: when do in-person communications work better than email? Share in comments below!
What does your email signature look like? Are there just your name, title, and contact information? Do you use photo? And how do you feel about someone using motion graphics, mottos, multiple links in their signatures?
Sometimes it’s very convenient to have your contact information and brief information about yourself on your email as a signature, but having too much there can be overwhelming and distract your recipient from actual content of the email.
Customize email signature to show your name, title, organization, contact numbers, and links to your social media profiles, but think twice before adding mottos, excessive images, and too much colour to it. Content of the email should always go first, and you don’t want to distract your reader from it.
Using humor in business emails
Is humor acceptable in business emails? Just recently, in their 7-Day Challenge series, Stanford Graduate School of Business advised: Infuse humor into the mundane.
They outlined some of the easiest and most practical ways to incorporate levity into the messages you send:
- Serendipitous Sign-Offs: Avoid standard sign-offs like “Best,” and instead use sign-offs that are personalized and interesting
- Callbacks to Conversation: Recall a conversation topic from a previous encounter – or better, a moment you laughed with the person – and work it into a follow up email in a lighthearted way, transforming a single moment into an inside joke
- Words that Humans Use: Make your emails more conversational. The closer they mirror something you’d actually say to this person, the better
- Delightful Post-Script: Including a lighthearted PS (a callback, personal reference, fun fact) signals a degree of closeness and invites playfulness from the recipient
Use these ideas in your next email to make your style unique and remarkable!
How to use Ok in email communication
The way you express yourself at work says a lot about you, and sometimes something as subtle as using “ok” in your communications can make or break your relationship.
Here is a brief recap of an outline given by Inc. author Minda Zetlin in her article that summarizes what different types of “ok” mean and how can a recipient perceive them:
- ‘Ok’ is a classic
- ‘OK’ is aggressive, but acceptable
- ‘Okay’ is a waste of everyone’s time
- ‘Ok!’ is a necessary evil or a genuine display of enthusiasm, depending on the recipient
- kk is just pure acknowledgement; your message is received
- (but don’t use KK, it’s as if you are SCREAMING!)
Is that okay to use Thank you as a sign-off?
I need to admit: I used “Thank you” as a sign-off line quite often. For me and for many of my email counterparts it seemed rather natural. I thank my readers for their time, for attention paid to my email, and for their consideration.
My attitude changed after working with business etiquette coaches. Their approach to using Thank You in emails was unified: expressing gratitude is good when you thank people for something already done. When you say Thank you immediately after asking for something, that sounds pushy and can be perceived as a passive-aggressive manipulation. In this regard, “Thank you in advance” is the worst.
Timing of your emails
Timing of your work emails is definitely a part of your professional brand. Sometimes you need to write down an idea or a message in order not to forget about it or not to miss your train of thought while it’s not the best time of day to send it away immediately…
Scheduled sending to the rescue. No matter if you created your email at 2 am in the morning — you can schedule its delivery to more reasonable 9 am.
In Gmail, you can use its native Schedule Send option, or special add-ons for delayed delivery. Simply click an arrow next to the Send button as shown on a screenshot above, and then specify when exactly you need your email delivered.
I also use Boomerang add-on to Gmail that allows not only for scheduled sending, but also checks format of my emails and sends follow-ups.
How to use email for personal branding: TL;DR
Email can and should be a part of your professional brand. In order to make its impact positive, always consider:
- language that you use
- timing and brevity of your messages
- thoughtful approach to humor
- appropriate greeting, sign-off, and signature
- using technology (i.e. apps and add-ons) to improve your email communication
Do you have more tips on email etiquette and productivity? Share with us in comments below!
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