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Email – 15 top tips for using email to communicate effectively

Email may be efficient, immediate and conversational but it gives no vocal clues and no body language clues.

Sent in the click of a mouse, email can quickly turn sour if we don’t follow some basic rules of etiquette.

  1. Avoid using exclamation marks in the subject line!!! Junk-mail filters often remove these emails.
  2. Write a meaningful subject line.
  3. Using capital letters is like SHOUTING. Use mixed case.
  4. Always address the person by name and sign off with your name.
  5. Avoid short replies such as ‘Yep’, ‘No’ and ‘Probably not’. You will come across as abrupt.
  6. Jokes are easily misunderstood in emails. Add a comment in brackets e.g. ‘(joke)’, ‘(only kidding)’ or use a cyber-wink 😉
  7. Copy only those people who absolutely have to be in the loop. If you copy too many people, you risk desensitising people to important information.
  8. Use the ‘blind copy’ (Bcc) option when sending an email to a long list of people who may prefer to remain anonymous. If you can’t see the ‘Bcc’ option in MS-Outlook, you may have to go into ‘Options / Show Bcc’ (create a new message first).
  9. Beware of writing or forwarding offensive, illegal or confidential information.
  10. Think twice before signing up for email lists—what may seem like a great idea at the time can quickly become annoying, especially if the unsubscribe option is hard to find or non-existent.
  11. For long emails, start with a bulleted summary so readers can see if it’s relevant to them without having to scrolling down.
  12. If you have a sensitive problem to discuss, phone or email the person directly. This way, you are less likely to aggravate the situation or cause confusion.
  13. Email is not a private conversation—it can be read by others and forwarded either accidentally or deliberately. If you don’t want your private business made public, don’t write about it in email.
  14. Think before you send that angry email. Save it to your draft box and give yourself time to cool down. When you look at it again, you will probably delete it.
  15. Use email as a tool for communication but don’t let cyberspace be the only place you do business. Remember the phone? Making a call can be faster and more effective than the email roundabout. Face-to-face communication is even better, especially if you work in the same building (or at the next desk – it happens!).