Communicating Professionally via Email
In today’s tech-savvy world, knowing how to communicate appropriately via e-mail is crucial to professional success. E-mail is now the dominant form of communication in most careers, and you can make a great impression on potential employers, co-workers, and clients by following these tips:
- Use an appropriate e-mail address. In any job search or work-related e-mail, make sure to use your UVM e-mail address or another address with your name and/or numbers. Save your “email@example.com” address for personal communication only!
- Make sure your e-mails have a clear subject line and greeting. Use the subject line to specify the purpose of the e-mail (for example, “Resume for the Business Analyst position” or “Question about travel to the April 20 client meeting”). Also, begin each e-mail with a greeting geared toward your recipient. If it is a formal e-mail, use “Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,” or if you are more familiar with the recipient, use “Hi First Name.”
- Be careful with your tone, spelling, and grammar. Professional e-mails should have a respectful and approachable tone. Do not use all caps in a professional e-mail (it makes the recipient feel like you are shouting at them), and do not use abbreviations or emoticons, even when replying from a smartphone. Always take the time to make sure you have used correct spelling and grammar before sending the e-mail—a few mistakes can go a long way in damaging your credibility.
- Be concise. Most people receive hundreds of e-mails a day and don’t have the time to read extremely long messages. Try to get to the point of the e-mail as quickly as possible (while still including the necessary details). When appropriate, use bullets to highlight your key points, and bold or underline any key deadlines or pieces of information.
- Finish with a sign-off and signature. Try to end all e-mails with some type of respectful sign-off (such as “thanks,” “sincerely,” or “best”) followed by your name. When applicable, set your e-mail preferences to automatically include a signature at the bottom of each e-mail that includes your name, title, and contact information.
Now that you know how to compose a professional e-mail, here are a few tips for using e-mail appropriately in the workplace:
- Before sending any e-mail, triple check who is addressed and copied. Make sure your e-mail program did not auto-fill the address line with the incorrect recipient, and don’t become an “accidental reply all” or “accidental reply instead of forward” horror story! Also, beware of the BCC—it is best to only use this feature if you are sending an e-mail to a long list of people so that all of the e-mail addresses remain private.
- Strive to answer e-mails on time, every time. Even if your inbox seems to be constantly overflowing, make sure you reply to urgent or time-sensitive e-mails as soon as possible and to all other professional e-mails within a reasonable period.
- Remember that e-mail isn’t private. Most companies can access work e-mail accounts belonging to employees, and e-mails can be used as evidence in a court of law. Plus, any e-mail you send has the potential to be forwarded to unintended recipients!
- Some things are just better in person. Although e-mail is the most common form of professional communication, sometimes it’s best to meet with someone in person or over the phone (for example, when you are expressing strong emotions about an issue, when you are asking someone for a recommendation, or when you are severing a professional relationship).
Need help crafting the perfect e-mail to accompany your job application materials? Feel free to stop by during Career Services Drop-In Hours on Mondays-Thursdays from 1-4PM in L/L E140.
A few resources from around the web:
- Experts reveal email nightmares, safety tips –CNN
- 6 Classic Email Faux Pas, and How to Recover –Wetfeet
- Avoiding Office Email Gaffes –Wetfeet
- Email Guidelines for Networking and Sample Networking Emails from UVM Career Services