Human beings are born to communicate. Imparting and interchanging information with others is how some of us spend most of our waking hours. Email is a wondrous, magical, super-efficient tool for participating in such exchanges that requires a few core, best practices you can count on one typing hand.
Choose a descriptive subject line title
You know how frustrating it is to search through your email files trying to find one specific message that referred to something very significant? But you can’t because it was titled: “Just thought of this!” or “Ringing in…”
In both professional and personal settings, a clear and to-the-point title let’s the recipient know how important the communication is, emotionally prepares them for the contents, and helps them file and retrieve it later if it contains important information.
For God’s sake, open with a greeting
Always, always, always begin your email with some form of opening greeting, and ideally you should use the recipient’s first name if you are on friendly terms. If you have ever received an email from a friend or a stranger that begins with a statement or question without any opening salutation foreplay, you know how jarring and off-putting this kind of communication can be.
The degree of formality in your opening is dependent upon context, of course. It’s far better to err on the side of formality if in doubt with, “Dear Insert Person’s First and/or Last Name Here” in business communications.
“Hi there” and “Hey!” are OK for pals, but the key is to acknowledge that there is a busy human on the other end of your fingertips who is probably doing at least four other things with their attention and time as they open your email. Extend them the courtesy and respect they deserve. You always appreciate it when it’s offered to you, right?
Choose a classy closing salutation
Strive to use something other than the uber annoying and fairly lazy “Best.” “Warm regards” is lovely. “Very sincerely” is not quite as intimate, but still lends a thoughtful touch. “Sincerely” is most adequate for business use, and “Best regards” is absolutely fine. An expression of gratitude for the reader’s time and attention is always appreciated and rarely inappropriate in a business setting.
Proof your work
Take a few minutes to use spellcheck and clean up your grammar. Edit out material that is extraneous or too informal for the context. Short, concise, and fact-based is appreciated in professional environments. Even if your BFFs love you to pieces, it can be really taxing to read an email that is as word-dense as a doctoral dissertation.
Acknowledge all email communications, requested or not
Something about the faceless and voiceless anonymity of electronic dialogue lends itself to non-responsiveness. In a professional setting, this is inexcusable. If the message you receive does not require a response from you, a simple “Got it. Thanks!” lets the sender know the info was received and subliminally indicates that you value their time and efforts.
If a response is required of you but you’re jammed at the moment, drop a fast note back indicating that you have received the email and will reply within a specified period of time. This one personal courtesy goes a long way in this technologically narcissistic culture of ours.