Improve your email etiquette

Improve your email etiquette

Representational photo

Traditional letter-writing via the postal system is on the verge of extinction in cities, replaced to a large extent by phone, text, internet messages, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and emails.

Jobs and universities increasingly require their employees and students to possess the skills of email-communication. Here, the casual quality of text and WhatsApp messages are (or ought to be) replaced with serious and purposeful language, tone, and content.

Professional emails

If teachers have to teach email-communication to their K-12 students and suitably communicate with parents via emails, one of the practising grounds for writing appropriate emails can be teacher preparation programmes. Undergraduate programmes could introduce the same to students in higher education, modelled by faculty.

Having a professional-sounding, single-user email address is a must. A blank subject line or a rehashed email with mismatched subject and content can send unfavourable impressions about the writer’s personality. Appropriate salutation or greeting in an email is a necessity. Using informal greetings such as “Hi” or “Hey” to CEOs, professors, and the like, is generally ill-advised. 

Professional emails expect first-letter-capitalisation of nouns (for example, Sir, not, sir). The word, “Madam” is appropriate, not its abbreviation, Ma’am, or its distorted forms such as Mam or mam. 

For facility in reading, one consistent font and size are essential. Handwritten style and Comic Sans fonts must give way to Georgia and Verdana that are easier to read and considered professional. The use of all uppercase fonts commonly referred to as “All Caps,” does not denote that email-statements are important. Refraining from inserting emojis and gifs, characterises the emails of professionals. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, and organisation demand utmost attention. The frequent omission of the Oxford comma can also lead to misinterpretation. First-person, I, needs to be in upper case.

Responses via emails are generally expected within 24 hours. If there is an anticipated delay in responding, a single-liner email notifying the date of response would be considered courteous. In the case of vacation or leave, setting up automatic reply is strongly recommended.

Conversation closers in professional emails should contain apt phrases, such as “Best Regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Thank You” (not, “Cheers” and the like that are used with friends). Proofreading the email before hitting “Send” is a good habit. Also, being mindful about using “Reply-All,” saves the time and energy of several unintended recipients.

Composing emails is both an art and a science. Optimal communication, including email etiquette, ought to be the norm in the world of academics and professions as it is here to stay, at least for some years. Even as two decades of the 21st Century have become history, it is not too late to acquire or foster appropriate communication competency at schools and universities.

(The author is Associate Professor, School of Education, CHRIST, Bengaluru)

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