8 Rules for Effective Email Communication

David Baake

Because email is now the preferred method of communication in the workplace, it's important that you know how to respond correctly. Professional reputation depends on proper email communication, and you shouldn't let typing mistakes affect your business relationships.

According to the Radicati Group, the average employed worker receives and responds to more than 100 email messages every business day. With that in mind, consider the following eight rules for effective email communications:

1. Skip the capital letters

Including capital letters in your email constitutes nothing more than screaming at your recipient. If you're that upset, pick up the telephone and verbalize your frustration in a more effective manner. If you need to emphasize something, it's better to use italics or bold. Consider the following example:

"The latest sales figure coming out of YOUR Location are ENTIRELY UNACCEPTABLE and need to be addressed IMMEDIATELY."

See how the following still presents the point strongly, but in a less aggressive fashion:

"The latest sales figures coming out of your location are entirely unacceptable and should be addressed immediately."

2. Include a polite introduction

If you want your email to be read and responded to, consider including at least some form of a respectful salutation. Even if it's nothing more than a "Hello," you can increase the effectiveness of all your messages. This is especially true when writing an email to your supervisor.

3. Use the subject line

Don't skip the subject line. An email with no subject may inspire the recipient to merely glance over the email or, worse, not read it at all. Include an effective subject line that summarizes the point of your message. You can also consider including the phrases "urgent" or "as you have time" to give the recipient a better idea of your message's importance.

4. Forego humor

If you want to be funny, don’t. There are just too many times when a message that seems humorous to you can offend the recipient. Err on the side of caution and keep jokes out of your emails. Take particular care to keep sarcasm and dry humor out of your messages.

5. Use auto sign to save time

Take advantage of the auto signature feature, so you can cut down on the time spent crafting your messages. This is especially effective if you send a lot of emails. Just be sure to include your contact information, so your recipients can find ways to get in touch with you (other than email) should they need to.

6. Know when not to send

Regardless of how popular email communication is these days, there are instances where you want to use another method to deliver your message. If it's of a particularly sensitive nature or you're worried about being misunderstood, your best bet is to pick up the telephone or schedule a face-to-face meeting. Keep your emails related to business. If you think your message might be unnecessary, it probably is. According to Atos, an Internet technology company that recently banned internal emails, only 15% of its email messages were found to be useful. Email is convenient, but is by no means a panacea.

7. Check for spelling errors

Use the spell check feature on outgoing messages, but don't rely on it exclusively. Spell check isn't perfect and there could be errors in your message that it will miss. Review the message yourself before you click "send," and check for grammatical or syntax errors as well. Remember, what you say and how you say it in email reflects on you professionally. It's important to get this right.

8. Double check recipients

As a general rule, do not send emails to all of your contacts. There are very few instances in which every single person on your contact list needs to read your message. When responding to an email sent to multiple employees, determine whether you really need to hit the "Reply to all" button. In most cases, you won't. Indeed, eight hours of productivity is wasted every time 100 employees needlessly receive a "Reply to all" email, according to research company Basex.

If you want your emails to be thoroughly read and acted upon, make them short and to the point. Just don't be so brusque that the tone comes off as disrespectful. Your team members and supervisors may respond to dozens of emails every day. Keeping these tips in mind will keep you on their good side, and make your job that much easier.

David Bakke is a contributing writer to moneycrashers.com. He can be reached at dbakke@moneycrashers.com.