Effective Email Communication: What Not to Do

As administrative professionals, you are required to deal with a high volume of email. If you do it well, you shine. Effective email communication sets the tone in establishing and maintaining strong relationships with your colleagues and clients, which makes it vital to your career success.

Despite the fact that communicating through email is standard in nearly every office environment, some people still shoot themselves in the foot when using it. Following are the most common types of email offenders, along with tips to ensure you aren’t “that person.”

The Font Abuser

These messages are a cacophony of color and confusion — fanciful fonts in various sizes, highlighted phrases, bold, italics and underlining. In extreme cases, the Font Abuser might even include clip art or images, particularly in his signature.

Aside from being overwhelming, these messages may not come across as intended. Depending on the email server the recipient uses, messages incorporating HTML or other images may not show up properly in the email body.

The solution:

Stick to the font your email server automatically chooses. Emphasize certain words using bold, italics or underlining as needed, but avoid relying on colors and images to make your point.

The Texter

The rules of grammar don’t apply to the Texter. Because she frequently emails from a cell phone, the messages read like texts — including lack of punctuation, shorthand, acronyms and even emoticons. The result is a sloppy message that makes the sender look lazy and unprofessional.

The solution:

No matter how short it is, think of your email more as a business letter than a text message. Effective email communication dictates that you greet the recipient by name, include your signature after the message, use proper punctuation and spell-check before sending.

The Forwarder

Jokes, chain mail, political messages — topics in messages from the Forwarder extend far beyond those relevant to the workplace. More often than not, the extra inbox clutter irritates the recipients. Worst-case scenario? A colleague or client might be offended by the content of the email and complain to a manager or move to a competitor.

The solution:

Stick to work-related topics. Constant email from one sender can easily turn into a “boy who cried wolf” scenario — eventually they’ll be deleted, unread. The less frequently your name appears in a colleague’s inbox, the more likely he is to pay attention to what you have to say.

The Rambler

Messages from the Rambler read like a State of the Union speech, covering a multitude of topics and dragging on way too long. The Rambler is often prone to tangents, veering off the original subject into another matter altogether. These types of messages are often ignored or deleted.

The solution:

Focus on one topic, and type that topic in the subject line of the email. If your message covers everything but the kitchen sink, recipients are more likely to skim and forget, so get to the point.

The Replier

The Replier is apparently unaware that an option other than Reply All exists. She responds to every department-wide email, and the whole company receives the response, even if it’s relevant only to the sender.

The solution:

Check not only the recipient field but also the CC field before replying to any email. Aside from cluttering your coworkers’ inboxes, you could accidentally send a sensitive or personal message to the wrong recipient or, even worse, to the entire company.

Taking a step back and evaluating an email in light of these and other tips just before you send will not only save you a great deal of heartache — because once you press Send, you’ve passed the point of no return — but also make you a pro at effective email communication.