Today, I wanted to post some quick tips to improve your process for writing emails in American workplace environments. Specifically, I want to talk about the culture, the business etiquette, because I don’t see this mentioned among other ESL teachers or career coaches.
Why is this important?
Email is one of the primary forms of communication used in the workplace, and everyone is judging you based on your email practices. And when it comes to building a successful career or business, how people perceive you matters.
If you do not handle your communication practices correctly, you are going to turn people off, and you will never know about it.
Instead, you won’t get interviews, or co-workers will avoid you at work and reach out to another co-worker or your boss because you are challenging to work with, or “not a team player.”
So let’s get started:
Tip #1: You don’t need to respond to every single email.
I’m willing to bet you have spent time and effort writing emails, feeling anxiety, and worrying about how they might respond, only to never get a response.
Sending a response to emails that don’t require it makes people think you don’t know what you are doing, its informal and unprofessional.
Some common examples of when you do not need to respond to an email:
- Any sort of polite greetings or comments such as “How are you?” or “Thank you.”
- Any sort of FYI email. Like if your boss is saying he is working from home.
How do you know if you should respond? Some things to look for:
- Look for a call-to-action. Some phrases include
- “Let me know when this is completed.”
- “Please confirm receipt of this email.”
- Usually, it’s a formal question such as, “Do you know where I can find this information?”
- Is the email addressed to you, or is it addressed to someone else?
- If it is not addressed to you in any fashion, then you probably should not respond unless someone asks you to.
Tip #2: Don’t get personal or emotional
It’s easy for things to get misinterpreted over email. What might seem okay to you can be considered rude to someone else.
- Consider your tonality and avoid accusations.
- “You did not send us payment” vs. “We have not received payment” – can you see the tonality difference?
- Use proper format and grammar, as many professionals in America feel it is lazy if you write your emails in broken English.
- They will think you are sloppy.
If this is a problem, it might be a good idea to get help. Find someone who can review your writing and provide feedback and lessons to improve your English composition and knowledge.
If you are interested in learning more about one on one customized business English lessons, please shoot me an email or respond to this post with your contact information and I will follow up with you.
Another reason I stress not to get personal or emotional in your emails is to minimize the risk of misinterpretation. There are plenty of horror stories about women who try to network for their careers but get invited to dates instead.
Whenever you send an email, your intentions should be clear and work-related.
To avoid any misinterpretations, stick to keywords and phrases to focus on your intention.
- “I understand. That was not my intent. This is strictly professional. I just wanted to talk to you about these goals” and then move on.
- “I wanted to learn more about your career path. For example, what kind of projects do you have? What skills are most important in your career?”
Tip #3 Create templates.
Templates allow you to repeat something over and over with minimal adjustments. If done right, it also looks professional. You treat everyone the same.
Here is one example you can use:
Email Template for Asking for Information
Subject line: I need Information about [area and a short description of Information]
“Hello [Name of recipient],
Do you have any information on [be specific about the Information you need]? In particular, I am interested in [list any key areas where you need specific info].
I have the following questions [list key questions], and I have already used the following resources to try and answer them [list resources].
Please send me the Information and let me know if you can answer these questions.
Notice the call to action at the end?
Tip #4 Stay focused on your goal
It’s easy to go off-topic and mention details that are not important.
- Think about why you are writing this email, who is the audience?
- Does this person need this Information?
- Who else should be on the email?
- Make sure that everything in the email is necessary.
- Keep it as simple as possible.
- Make sure you have the correct attachments and that any hyperlinks you have inserted are working correctly.
- Provide a clear call-to-action if you expect something from them.
- An example would be to say, “Can you please let me know when this will be completed?”
We talked about why professional email writing is essential, and I shared four tips to improve your emails.
Go through your emails and think about if any of these apply to you and how you can adjust.
Write a comment or send me an email. If you have experiences like these, I would love to hear them.