x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Remember email etiquette and above all, get to the point

Rushed emails do not reflect professionalism and, most importantly, can portray you as a careless person.

Rushed emails do not reflect professionalism. Jeff Topping / The National
Rushed emails do not reflect professionalism. Jeff Topping / The National

A large chunk of my day in the office is frequently dedicated to sending and receiving business emails. My role at work and my small business highly depends on it. If I am not at my desk, I have to at least be connected to my email through my phone.

A delay in receiving an email from a supplier or a client can jeopardise the workflow system of my day. And I know that this is the same for my colleagues and for some of you out there.

However, as much as my colleagues and I have to be hooked on to our emails, we do not have enough time to engage fully with every single email received. Some, like my manager and editors receive tens if not hundreds of messages daily. And I know that if I did not grab their attention in the subject line, then I am highly unlikely to hear back from them.

When I first joined the financial organisation that I now work for, I did not realise that by applying small tips, I could guarantee a faster email response. So what should one do to earn a recipient's attention?

It's simple. Before hitting the "send" button, check your subject line. If it's blank, or general, there is a chance your message will get lost, or that you will not ensure the fast response you are anticipating. If you are asking your recipient to take action such as approving a document, reviewing a proposal, then highlight that in the subject line.

This may sound very old school, but stick to standard capitalisation and punctuation. I know how hard it is sometimes to type on a touchscreen phone while you are on the go, and most importantly it may seem like a waste of time, but it is the little details that matter.

Rushed emails do not reflect professionalism and, most importantly, can portray you as a careless person.

Avoid using abbreviations, and writing "lik dis pls" Such "text speak" can confuse some receivers, as well as actually wasting your time explaining what you meant in a second email.

Get straight to the point. Be direct when making a request. Avoid unnecessary polite introductory questions such as: how is your family? How is your pet? Or what did you last weekend? Especially when the receiver is a busy person and when the email is work-related. Highlight deadlines and important details that your recipient needs.

This takes us to the importance of being brief. Avoid writing lengthy emails that can cause your recipients to scroll down their screens. Highlight important points by underlining them, or splitting them up on to different bullet points.

It is important to keep "context" in mind. Provide your recipient with background information, and put yourself in their shoes to ensure that they have all the information required, and that they understand what you need from them.

If you are discussing an ongoing project, provide a brief background about what has been done, and what needs to be done to finish it.

If you do not have that, add a signature block at the bottom of your email message body with appropriate contact information: your name, business address, contact number, and a disclaimer if required by your organisation, basically anything that could make your recipients able to contact you promptly if they need to follow up on your request.

Avoid cluttering your signature block with quotes, images, or funny statements.

Copy people in rationally. This is one of the most annoying things I have encountered; receiving emails personally addressed to me but they are sent to every team member of mine. Avoid using the "cc" option in your emails - and copying in everyone unless it is necessary.

Remember to say "please" and "thank you" when requesting or receiving something. Being polite with people goes a long way.

Finally, reply promptly to important email messages. If you need more than a day to collect data, or to consult your boss before making a decision, send a brief response highlighting that you will need some time to reply.


Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi