Have you ever received an email and thought, wow, that was abrupt? Or, maybe you received an email and thought the person sending it was upset with you. We can’t communicate tone of voice in emails, which is very important to help convey meaning.
Without tone of voice, it’s especially important to make sure your messages don’t come across as unfriendly, demanding or mean. Just the other day a client who hired me to teach workplace courtesy to her employees mentioned that many people in her workgroup send emails that seem quite rude because they lack some of the friendly touches that make the “tone” warmer. They don’t mean to be rude, they just don’t realize that without some important pleasantries the messages are appearing unfriendly.
So often we operate in a just-get-it-done mode and don’t realize how easy it is to offend or worry someone by what we do or don’t include in our emails. Follow these tips to avoid having people question your intent.
Use a greeting
When you don’t use a greeting it makes your message seem very abrupt. It’s especially important to use a greeting with someone you don’t know. Hello, Hi or Dear are all appropriate. Avoid using Hey which can seem like you’re shouting at the person and is a little too casual for the workplace.
After an initial email you can dispense with a greeting if you get into an email conversation with the person.
Include some niceties
Even if you’re in a hurry, include a sentence or two of pleasantries before jumping into business. It will be much better received. Here are some examples:
- Comment on the weather – “I hope you didn’t lose power in the storm”
- Ask about their weekend.
- Wish them a happy day – “Happy Friday”
- Ask about their trip, weekend excursion or special event – “Welcome back. How was your trip? I can’t wait to hear about it.”
Avoid writing “I hope this email finds you well.” It’s meaningless, overused and oddly worded.
Don’t forget “please” and “thank you”
When requesting something of someone be sure to say “please,” or “would you mind.” For example, rather than writing, “Bring me the report.” Add “please” to soften the request – “Will you please bring me the report?” And, don’t forget to say “thank you” when your recipient helps you in any way, even if she only answered a question.
Remember the closing
A closing is just as important as a greeting. It lets the reader know they have reached the end of the email rather than wondering if something was cut off. It’s also another pleasant touch. Appropriate greetings include: Best regards, Regards, All the best, Warm regards, Warmly (use only with close coworkers and friends) and Sincerely (this one’s a little more formal).
You might be thinking, I just want to get a darn email out, why do I need to worry about all of these niceties? I understand your concern, but it is really amazing how many people have told me they have been offended or concerned when they received an email without these pleasantries. So, slow down Mr. Fast Fingers; it will only take you a few extra seconds to add these rapport building touches. You just might find people are more willing to help you, or at least won’t talk behind your back.