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27 Email Etiquette Tips for Professionals

27 Email Etiquette Tips for Professionals

Even after the advent of social media and improvements in text messaging, email is  still the mode of communication that continues to prevail in the professional realm. The ability to give direction, put out fires, and more without being face-to-face has enabled many businesses to use email as a productivity tool. However, there are times when professionalism goes out of the window, and etiquette rules are forgotten. Today, we will take a look at 27 email etiquette tips for business professionals.

1. Greetings and Send-offs

I never start an email with the contents. An email always begins with a sound introduction or with the recipient’s name. This will, in the beginning, let them know to whom they are speaking with. When you begin by acknowledging them by name (e.g. Hello, John Doe), you will let them know whom you intend on talking with. When you are done with an email, always finish by saying “Thanks” or “Cheers”, to practice good etiquette and respect.

2. Know When to Call

Not all communication has to occur through email. Once conversation begins to mention specifics, it may be wise to schedule a phone call—this can prevent misunderstandings and can even expedite your correspondence. It is also respectful to pick up the phone when a meeting, scheduled by email, is cancelled.

3. Mind Your Punctuation

Professionalism involves knowing how to mind your punctuation. In a standard email correspondence, you should use periods and question marks about 95% of the time. Leave exclamation points to when your conversation is light-hearted, and you’re familiar with the recipient.

4. The Clock is Ticking

When dealing with business, never keep them waiting. As the saying goes, “time is money”. You should never let a recipient wait more than two days for your reply. Just like a phone call, waiting on an email can hold up progress on whatever project you are attempting to establish. After all, isn’t that why you’re emailing and not using snail mail?

5. Write it Right

Grammar and spelling should be two considerations when emailing in a professional environment. Even though the content is the star of the email, ensuring that your grammar is in check allows the business acquaintance to know that you are taking the conversation seriously. Most email clients have spelling and grammar checks, so use them!

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6. Consider Company Culture

Let’s be honest—while grammar and tone should be professional, we must still consider the companies that we are contacting. Inner business emails between more relaxed companies will of course be a bit different from, let’s say, the White House. While minding your grammar, continue to give off an approachable vibe while emailing.

7. Engineer the Perfect Subject Line

The first thing your recipient sees is the subject line. Frankly, they will discern the importance of an email by a subject line before reading its contents. Make sure you leave a great impression by being mindful of capitalization, being concise, and to the point.

8. Reply vs. Reply-All

Nothing is more embarrassing than sending a mass email that was intended for only one recipient. This is the result of an email that began with multiple recipients. When replying, you will have the option to “Reply”—which emails the sender—or “Reply-All”, which sends your message to everyone the original message was sent to. Double check before sending, or you’ll be sorry.

9. Consider The Privacy of Others

There will be instances when you’ll have to send business emails to multiple recipients who may not know each other. The recipient’s email address is added to the “To:” section in average emails, but in multiple recipient emails, you should add the addresses to the “BCC” or Blind Carbon Copy section, to prevent others from viewing recipient addresses.

10. Tailor a Signature

Unlike a greeting or send-off, an email signature is automatically added to the bottom of a message, where you can add a small biography and contact information. This doesn’t replace a quality greeting, but it does allow a new acquaintance to learn more about you and to know where to get in contact with you.

11. Go in Vacation Mode

Several times a year, during vacation, I usually find myself separated from my email. As seen in tip #4, time is of the essence, and it’s rude to leave an email in your inbox unanswered. To alert individuals of my absence, I add an auto-responder (through Gmail, but also available on other clients) mentioning of why I’m gone and when I will return.

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12.  Be Mindful of Links

Hackers have found ways to add viruses and malware to attachments and links. When forwarding emails, ensure that the links and attachments are safe. Also, reduce the number of chain messages you forward and never send any from an unknown recipient.

13. Create a TL:DR Summary

TL:DR is an acronym standing for “Too long, didn’t read”. It’s quite blunt and is the case for many busy business acquaintances who simply are too busy to read long email conversations. For this reason, when forwarding or periodically when replying to conversations, summarize previous points in bullets to keep recipients up-to-speed on email contents.

14. Job Search Tip: Resume and Cover Letter

When searching for a job, email etiquette is of the utmost importance. When replying to a job board, always ensure that you include your resume and cover letter. By default, these should be attachments unless they explicitly are against them.

15. Ask Before Attaching

The reason companies don’t like large attachments is because companies are given a specified storage space they pay for. Your large attachment eats up their storage allowance. Before sending a large attachment, or multiple ones, always ask for permission from the recipient.

16. When is Irony Appropriate?

Irony is a popular form of comedy for most people. However, in a business setting, you should shy away from it. Irony in any written form can be misunderstood at best, and at worst be taken as offensive. Save the irony for emails within your company.

17. Rethink Your Font

A company email isn’t a PowerPoint presentation from your sixth grade English project: leave the fancy fonts for another time. Not only does it come off as unprofessional, some companies may not have the email clients that can present such fonts. Besides, who wants to read Edwardian Script font anyway?

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Professional Fonts to Use

  • Times New Roman
  • Georgia
  • Veranda
  • Arial
  • Book Antiqua
  • Calibri

18. Documents Open for All

Obscure file types can prevent companies from being able to open the attachments you send, which can slow down business operations and projects. Leave attachment file types to PDFs, .doc, .txt, or .jpeg. They usually are of a reasonable size and can be opened on most machines and operating systems.

19. Separate Work from Play

It’s not wise to use your company email to send personal messages to friends and relatives. Use your business email for colleagues and business acquaintances only, for two reasons: to maintain the professional nature of your inbox, and to limit wasteful use of email storage space.

20. Ensure Your Email Wasn’t Trashed

If you haven’t heard back from a receiver, chances are that they are busy. Inquiring on whether or not they got your message could make it worse, but there are times when emails are quite pertinent. Wait a week to a week-and-a-half if time allows, and if you still don’t have a reply, call them or dispatch another email.

21. Make Your Intentions Clear

When recipients only have a minute or two to read an email, you should make your message as concise and to the point as possible. Provide an outline in the beginning of the email of what you expect from the recipient before going a bit in depth.

22. Connect Email to Your Phone

To prevent recipients from waiting, connect your business email to your phone to ensure that you are able to reply to them in a timely manner. In the settings of most smart phones, you are able to adjust your signature.

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23. Inner Company Acronyms

While acronyms are ill-advised to new acquaintances, creating company acronyms between co-workers can be a clever way to ensure that they understand the importance or intent of the message. Acronyms like “NRN” (No Reply Needed) can allow colleagues to know what messages are urgent and what can wait.

24. Extend What’s in Email

It’s easy to blame forgetting or misunderstanding a meeting request given through an email. Most email clients don’t have alarm systems. This means it’s your responsibility to apply outside the inbox what is relevant (creating calendar alerts for meetings, etc) to be productive.

25. Consider Time Differences

It can be aggravating to request a call or meeting through email and not hear back within a timely manner. It is necessary, however, to ensure that this isn’t due to time zone differences. If you are requesting a call from an Australian acquaintance and you’re in New York, ensure time zone differences are worked out.

26. Check Your Calendar

To prevent unnecessary back and forth emailing, it is wise to be mindful of  traditions and holidays in the culture or religion of your recipient. If you are in a country where Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, it may not be wise to schedule a meeting for December 24th when the rest of your location is on business as usual.

27. Inform Employees on Etiquette

It’s fine and dandy to follow all of these email etiquette tips yourself, but if you are the only one following them, it still gives your business a bad image. Share valuable email etiquette tips with your co-workers to ensure the business name is kept sound.

Let us know in the comments below of a moment when your email etiquette left a good impression on the recipient. Also, let us know when email etiquette was tossed out the window, and its outcome.

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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