We have all been told to make a good first impression, whether it be an interview, on a date, or just meeting a stranger. I believe that this extends to electronic communication, especially emailing. If you have worked or interned you may know that you will make many ‘first impressions’ via email within the first month of starting. But your professionalism must extend beyond the first few emails; be ready to hold a majority of your professional conversations over email. From my experience, on an average day, I would expect several hundred emails. That leads to a huge probability of making a mistake and/or hindering a relationship. Does this sound overwhelming and terrifying? Don’t fret, there are some simple rules you can follow to alleviate this stress.
To start, it is important to know what the email culture is like within your organization. What was expected of me with my previous employer may be vastly different from a very open-community organization like a Google or Facebook. That being said, there are some generally accepted rules about emailing. They are:
1) Reply to emails within 24 hours. Personally, if I receive a message before 4 pm, I do my best to respond before the end of the business day (EBD).
2) Know your acronyms: ASAP, IMO, EBD, etc. This rule is fairly simple, but it will save you a bunch of time.
3) If you don’t know the gender of the person, do not try to guess. I can’t count the number of times I’ve received an email for Ms./Mrs. Julien Mansier. There is nothing wrong with opening with ‘Hi,’ or ‘Good morning,’
4) Be conscientious of the Reply-all button. If you were one of many on an email, and you want to reply (or forward) to one person, then do not reply all.
I want to harp a bit on rule #4. Be careful with reply all: Everyone has a horror story. For instance, my company (25,000+ US employees) was giving away tickets to a football game. All the contestants had to do was reply to this message to be entered into the drawing. I think you can see where this is headed. Within 15 minutes, I had over 1000 emails in my inbox with ‘Yay!’ and ‘I hope I win!’ I am sure IT had a blast with that situation.
Moving forward, the last important topic is the email itself. I am not so concerned with the content, but rather the length. The answer to how long an email should be comes from knowing your company’s culture. Our rule was that if it was over one paragraph, you should just call or talk in person. Just remember that people’s time is limited and valuable. It is faster for you to speak your thoughts than it would be for the receiver to read three paragraphs; it’s a win-win, you get your answer fast and they save time. Many email clients offer a chatting service, which I found to be more utilized than email. If you do decided to write a novel of an email, don’t be surprised if you learn a new acronym: TL,DR…Too long, didn’t read.