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Make sure you are using proper writing etiquette before you hit that send button!
I WAS ONCE ASKED WHY I WAS SHOUTING IN AN EMAIL. I WAS WORKING FOR A COMPANY AND COMMUNICATING BY EMAIL AND THEY THOUGHT I WAS BEING VERY RUDE BECAUSE I WAS SHOUTING. Someone then approached me and asked me why I was mad and yelling about completing a task. I had no idea what they were talking about. I had just written an email to let my supervisors know I was finished with the assignment and to let me know if they had any issues or concerns. I had no idea that I was shouting or angry. Apparently, the CAPS LOCK turned on the entire time is a very rude thing to do. I realized my mistake, re-wrote the email, with an apology alongside the original message, and everyone was happy again. It makes me wonder if I switched to an all-caps font, would I still be rude?
In any business email or letter, you must be careful about what you say and how you say it. Business letters and emails do not and should not contain emoticons, which are smiley faces. Without those, however, it is near impossible to tell the emotions of anyone. I have had conversations with people over instant message or email without using any emoticons and they thought I was mad or upset, though I was just having a conversation! Other times, they thought I was unconcerned and too “plain” because of my responses without any emoticons or anything to display my affection or interest. I guess you could say the same thing of a phone call. How exactly do you tell if someone is smiling or happy? I suppose you could hear it in their voice, but it could be fake as well!
When writing any business email or letter, you must always state who it is you are talking to by addressing them by their name in the email, putting a clear topic in the subject line, so your boss or supervisor will not think it is just another spam email, and in the body, clearly state what it is you want to say. No one wants to read more than a few paragraphs, so keep it short if you can. If you really need to write an email that starts to look like a novella, you may want to just pick up the phone and call as common courtesy, or actually go see your boss or supervisor in person. Save the man-hours on writing that email and just have a 5 or 10 minute conversation instead.
I always was on edge when I had a boss write me an email with those three scary words: Come see me. Emotionless. Nothing but his signature in the body. I hated when he did that because I did not know what to prepare for, what I was walking into, or what I should even bring. I just learned to bring a paper and pen because I never knew what he was going to want. Luckily, it never led to me being fired, though I was sometimes reprimanded and asked why I did something. That was about it. It still was an email I dreaded to receive and hated. Had he at least gave me some insight in the email, I would have been more prepared for anything in advance.
Always be formal and polite in your emails and never ever curse or write anything that can be used against you, even if you are mad, or concerned about something that your boss said or did to you. Confront them in person instead of writing an email about it, as your boss may take it the wrong way because he or she cannot see your emotions, your feelings, your facial expressions, and anything else that represents you as a human being. Write as if you would speak at work and avoid the common seven dirty words or any other words that are inappropriate and could be printed out and used against you in the court of law. Written documents are always evidence of anything, including a battle between a you said I said or he said she said argument. It is easier to win an argument if there is no proof! Not that you should win an argument if you know you are wrong, but at least you will have an edge.
You can bold, italicize, or underline certain points you are trying to make to help your boss or supervisor read through the email quicker. Have the courtesy to increase your font size by an extra point or two to help ensure it is more readable. Most people underestimate the font size and think that a normal font size is fine, but the majority of people cannot read it and have to increase it themselves. Make sure you stick to the topic and get straight to the point. No one has time to shift through dozens to hundreds of emails, reading line by line. Make sure your email can be skimmed fairly easy. Use bullet lists if you can. Your bosses will probably love you for it.
And remember to never ever use the CAPS LOCK unless you are making a point or really intending to yell at whoever you are writing to, but you should probably never yell at your boss.
Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.