Start Sending Smart Emails at Work

10 tips for effectively and professionally communicating via email.

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Lindsay Olson
We've all fallen victim to being misunderstood in an email. The problem with emails is that they don't convey emotion well, and often your words can be misconstrued as a result. There are plenty of email pitfalls of which we've all been guilty. At work, this can be dangerous, and can even cost you your job if you're not careful. Use these tips to make sure you remain professional via email at all times.

1. Check your tone. It's easy, even satisfying, to type out an email in the wake of anger. But the next time this happens, take a pause before clicking "Send." Take some time to cool down, then reread the email to see if your frustration comes through. If it does, rewrite it so that you keep emotion out of the note.

2. Consider how it will be received. You may be the queen of sarcasm, but realize that your sarcastic personality may not come across jokingly in an email, and your recipient might take offense. Without the context that comes with a vocal conversation, you can see that someone might be put off if they received this in an email. If you're not sure how something will be perceived, find a better way to write it.

3. Take it offline. Some conversations are better not shared via email. If you're discussing a sensitive subject, or if the conversation has gotten derailed due to misunderstandings, pick up the phone or stop by that person's office. It can usually be a lot easier to finish the discussion in person, and you don't make any assumptions about the other person's intent.

4. Stay professional. Even if you're casual with co-workers after hours, keep your business-related emails professional at all times. Remember that your company might monitor your emails, so you certainly don't want any record of you being anything but professional.

5. Skip the emoticons. Save the smiley faces for your personal email after work. Cute images have no place in work email. Period.

6. Pay attention to your reply all. Many of us have mistakenly replied to everyone included on an email when we shouldn't have. Make sure if you want to email one person you don't click "Reply All," or you risk irritating a slew of other folks.

7. Don't rush. You're busy. But rushing through an email often leads to many mistakes, such as sending it to the wrong person, or leaving off an attachment. Take a moment with each email to make sure you're sending it to the intended recipient, and that you've spell-checked it. It's worth the 30 seconds it takes to make sure you come off as professional.

8. Take your time to respond. We live in a world of near instant gratification, and email is no exception. When you get an email, make sure you respond when you have good reason to. If you've been asked to provide a document that's not ready, consider whether the person who sent the email needs an immediate response or if it can wait until later in the day when the document is ready. We all have enough in our inboxes that we would gladly skip that short quick response in favor of a return email with the information requested.

9. Use an effective subject line. It's all too easy to just hit "Reply" and go with the subject line Re:. But if your recipient needs to quickly ascertain what your email is about, this won't help her. Instead, identify the subject you cover in the email and label the subject accordingly. This is also helpful when she needs to search to find an email you've sent.

10. Use email as only one communication tool. We often rely too heavily on email, and don't have enough face-to-face interaction. Make an effort to connect with others you work with in other ways. Invite a colleague to coffee. Go on-site to visit a client. Keep your relationships multifaceted so that you build rapport with people, both online and off.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.