E-mail is still often seen as a casual form of communication. Even in the workplace, people often omit greetings, closings and proper spelling. However, as e-mail has largely replaced memos, becoming the primary form of communication in business, following proper etiquette and format is important for both clarity and showing respect to fellow employees.
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Greetings and Closings
Greetings and closings depend on the type of relationship you have with the recipient of your e-mail.
In your first e-mail to the recipient, open with "Dear" followed by the recipient's name. Usually the first name is fine unless your company is very formal. Once the email relationship has been established, you can use simply the recipient's name, or a more informal greeting such as "Hi" or "Hello," followed by the recipient's name.
When sending to a group, always use "Dear" as mass e-mails tend to be more formal. Don't use greetings such as "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon." It may be a different time of day by the time the recipient reads the email.
Closings follow the same rules as greetings. In a first e-mail, use a more formal closing such as "Best," "Regards," or "Sincerely." Once e-mails have been exchanged, a closing isn't necessary but always include your name as a sign-off.
Before the greeting, the subject line is the first piece of information your recipient will read. Be sure to make it meaningful, clear and brief, so that the recipient will understand the content of your message and prioritise appropriately.
With the advent of hand-held devices, some workers have fallen into the habit of placing the content of their e-mail in the subject line, thinking this is more convenient to the recipient. However, such formatting actually seems brusque and impolite.
Use proper spelling, punctuation and capitalisation. Taking time to spellcheck and fix typos shows respect to your colleagues. A misplaced comma can change the meaning of a sentence. Keep in mind your colleagues aren't mind readers, and make antecedents clear ("Work with him on that project" - who is "him" and "what project"?).
Never write in all caps. WRITING IN ALL CAPS MAKES IT APPEAR YOU'RE SCREAMING AT YOUR COLLEAGUE.
Write short paragraphs that are to the point. Be friendly but, unless you're close with the recipient, refrain from jokes or sarcasm, which often fall flat in e-mail. Finally, eschew emoticons.
A recent study in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication showed that senders of polite e-mails were viewed as more friendly and likable than senders of impolite e-mails. Moreover, recipients of polite e-mails were more willing to work with those senders.
You can show politeness in e-mail the same way you would in real life. Use "please" and "thank you" when making a request.
Again, taking the time to be sure your e-mail is grammatically correct shows conscientiousness to your fellow employees. Neglecting to do so implies that your time is more important than theirs.
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