6 Email Rules For Good Communication

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Career Management | 10 comments

Email communication isn’t just about getting work done, it’s about building relationships and reputations. Effective email communication isn’t as easy as it seems and poor email etiquette is all too common in business, and life, today.

The way you communicate with others not only communicates information contained in your email, it also contains information about you- who you are- your brand.

Effective email communication shows others you are:

Knowledgeable
Experienced
Competent
Organized
Prepared
Trustworthy

You want to show you’ve got all these excellent qualities, right? I know I do!

I’m going to skip over some of the more obvious email rules like spell checking, using “reply all” carefully, and attaching documents. Let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?

Six Email Rules for Good Communication

1. Greetings and Salutations

Start your email with a proper greeting, including the intended recipient’s name. It’s not only polite, it shows respect, personalizes your email, and builds positive relationships.

It’s also helpful to get in the habit of addressing the recipient directly to avoid confusion when it is necessary to cc additional recipients.  Using a personalized greeting instantly tells anyone reading who you are addressing. This may not seem important until you realize no one has replied because everyone on the send list thought someone else was handling it.

2. Get to the point

We’re all busy, and many of us are overwhelmed with digital information. Try to be concise and get to the point of your email “above the fold”. The most important information in your email should come at the beginning of your message because, let’s be honest, most of us skim emails and may not bother scrolling down to read more if the email doesn’t seem all that important.

In addition, many people check email on their phones where brevity is appreciated!

3. Make it count

Sometimes I get email that I read through several times and I’m not sure if there’s action needed or what, exactly, the sender is trying to communicate.

If you are assigning action items, or you’re summarizing important details, use bullets & numbering to highlight key points and questions. When glancing over your email the reader will have a better understanding of what they need to know, and what they need to do next.

(This one works for blog posts, too!)

4. Link it up

When sharing information in an email, include a link to the referenced resource, policy, or website whenever possible. If the information you are sharing is important, make it simple and easy for recipients to take requested action, get more information, or share the information with others.

Think of it this way, if someone sent you an email raving about the funniest video they’ve ever seen without linking the video, would you go searching for the video or simply delete the email and move on with your day? I know what I’d do.

5. Mind the subject line

It’s very important to use a descriptive subject when composing your message. Avoid blank subject lines and vague subjects such as “FYI”, “One more thing”, “Our conversation”, etc. Be specific! Reference the topic, such as a unique meeting, report, time period, or request.

Instead of “tomorrow’s meeting” try something along the lines of “05/05/12 Budget Meeting”. A descriptive subject line allows the recipient to quickly prioritize your message, as well as easily reference it again if needed.

6. Add value

When composing a new message or replying to email be mindful of adding value. Build a reputation as someone that has something valuable to offer! Consider your audience and only share information that will be useful to the recipients.

And while we’re on the subject, I’m going to share a personal email pet peeve- using reply all to thank the original sender. Although I advocate courtesy and respect, I suggest you avoid replying-all just to write “thanks”. If you’re not thanking me personally, I don’t need an extra email in my inbox to let me know you’ve acknowledged someone else.

email etiquetteImage courtesy of newfilm.dk

Email is a great communication tool when done right! When poor email etiquette abounds, the message often doesn’t get through and this can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and missed deadlines.

When composing an email stop and think about ways to show the recipient you are knowledgeable, experienced, competent, organized, prepared, and trustworthy through the way you communicate. Use email to share information as you form positive connections!

I love your comments! Do you use any of these rules? What other email rules improve communication and build great working relationships?

10 Comments

  1. thank you for sharing this very interesting post with us i really enjoyed reading it and learning more about it. great post.

  2. I think I see a “POCKET” guide:

    Prepared
    Organized
    Competent
    Knowledgeable
    Experienced
    Trustworthy

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Corey! Very astute observation! :)

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  3. As far as what I use email for when communicating with my list Chrysta, sometimes I’ll just update them on something I’ve got going. You know, leave the lines of communication open because this is how relationship building is done as well. I don’t always have an action step I want them to take. But when I do, I definitely ask.

    Great tips!

    ~Adrienne

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      Thanks for bringing up a great point- there are differences between communicating with an email list and sending emails to specific recipients. I’d love to read a post from you on tips for communicating with your email list.

      Lovely to see you, as always! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  4. Hey Chrysta,

    Timely post! I just deleted my old list and started a new one. I have already setup the autoresponder emails to run for me. But, after reading your post, I think I should tweak 2-3 emails to be more personalized and short. My emails are kind of long (like a short blog post – and most of them contain my experience). I understand that people are busy, but I am going to stick with my short blog post style, because I like adding examples (And I think it makes the subscribers more loyal to my list). I am still experimenting with this (I hope I get good results). Anyways, I will keep these things in mind (for the next experiment :D).

    Thanks again for the information,

    Jeevan

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jeevan!

      It sounds like you’re on the right track with your mailing list. I agree personal stories can provide a connection and in this way longer emails may be a good strategy for an email list. Formatting your list emails like a blog post (headers, sub-headers, etc.) can help recipients better enjoy and understand your message.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

      • I didn’t about that, Chrysta. I wrote these emails as if I was really talking to them. I will see how it works out. If it doesn’t go very nice, I will change it to include headings and subheadings. Thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Great points to embrace on email. One to add – Only address the email to the people that can take action. In other words, don’t copy half the office on an email! Be focused. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jon! I apologize for not replying to you sooner- I have been out-of-town at a conference and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

      I completely agree with your suggestion to limit the email recipients to only those that really need to receive the email. Business emails often include too many copied recipients and that is not an example of good communication. Many times I’ve been cc:d on emails that don’t really offer much value to me, and it’s just more distraction and digital clutter. No, thank you!

      Thanks again for your comment! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

Leave a Comment