Monday October 10, 2011
By guest blogger, Erin Palmer – Villanova University, Florida
Writing has always been one of the chief forms of communication in business, however since e-mail went mainstream in the 1990s it has become the fastest and primary way to conduct business dialogue. Email has been particularly useful for HR personnel, not only during the recruitment process but to also ensure timely, accurate information is communicated to all employees.
Whilst the global acceptance of this technology is very beneficial, the rapid spread of electronic written communication has not always allowed for the development of a proper writing etiquette. Just as there is a defined procedure for writing a business letter, there is also good practice for email, which should be adopted to ensure your electronic communications promote the same excellent company standard.
Using email to communicate effectively and efficiently demonstrates your level of professionalism. Adhering to the below tips can help you avoid blunders and promote yourself as a trusted team member within your organisation:
Before you start – think.
Do not send emails regarding sensitive subjects. Sometimes a face to face meeting is necessary. Pay rises, performance reviews and similar topics are best addressed in person. Know when email is not appropriate.
Leave the [TO:] field empty
Waiting to add the recipient’s address until the message is ready to send will prevent you from accidently sending an incomplete message. This will also help give you the extra moments you need to review the message before you send it. Make sure to save your email drafts regularly if you have to leave your desk before the task is completed. Many email providers do this automatically.
Add necessary attachments before you begin writing
If you add your attachments first, you do not have to worry about forgetting to add them later. Sending an email without the necessary attachments will waste both your and your recipient’s time. Forgetting an important attachment, such as a presentation or contract, could seriously hurt a project’s efficiency.
Create a strong subject line
A good subject line will let the recipient know what the email is about and why they should open it. Indicate required action in the subject line in brackets behind the subject: i.e. Windows Seven Upgrade [approval required]. Emails with clear subject lines always get quicker attention.
Notify a subject change
If you are emailing back and forth with someone, be sure to adjust the subject line if you begin discussing a new subject. This helps to avoid confusion and makes it easier to refer back to a specific message later.
Start with the appropriate greeting
Use the right greeting for the person that you are sending the email to. A person that you work with every day and know well can be greeted more casually, but an important client may require a more formal greeting. Pay attention to spelling of names and use of titles. An incorrectly spelt name or usage of an incorrect title, such as addressing a married woman as 'Miss' could offend the recipient.
Use proper email etiquette
Always be calm when you compose an email. If something happens that makes you angry; wait until the red mist has passed before addressing it through email. Lasting damage can be done by a cathartic email sent in haste.
Be patient when waiting for a response. If something needs immediate attention, a phone call may be necessary. Give the recipient ample time to reply. Just because you sent the message five minutes ago doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the time to respond yet.
Take time to read through what you’ve written before you hit send
Even if you are busy, it is worth taking the extra minutes necessary to check what you wrote. If the recipient doesn’t understand it, you are going to have to clarify things later anyway. Besides, sending an email full of mistakes or confusing directions will make you look unprofessional. When writing to clients, it is especially important that the email be written well and error-free. Take the time to do it right the first time.
Pay attention to privacy
Be respectful of your co-workers privacy. Never ‘reply all’ unless you mean to. Remember that ‘bcc’ messages are only meant for specific eyes. Be careful when forwarding messages. You don’t want to forward something unless there is a reason for it.
Ensure you are taken seriously
Forwarding entertainment based messages frequently creates the impression that your messages are unlikely to include anything important and results in your peers lowering the priority of an email from you. Depending on your company’s email policy, sending out certain messages might land you in trouble. Avoid sending or forwarding any inappropriate emails messages at work. No joke is worth potentially losing your job over. Work email is quite obviously meant to be used for work purposes.
These HR email tips are incorporated within Villanova University’s online programs. Villanova offers a Masters in Human Resources degree program in addition to other human resource development courses.