Business Email: It’s More Than Great Content
Let’s face it – email messages make up the bulk of important business communication. Just last month, we gave tips on effective business email writing. Content, grammar and clarity still reign for making email messages effective, and clear subject lines help ensure people open messages. In a recent article by Andrew Blackman in The Wall Street Journal, I spotted a few important points and busted myths about using email at work. Here are some takeaways:
Email Reply Speed
We’ve always encouraged business writers to be organized and to make timely replies when it comes to email messages. That’s still largely true, but Blackman’s article mentions a few research-based caveats. One is the stress caused when employer policies require (or work cultures encourage) responding within a set time frame. Research has found this adds to pressure for many workers, especially the most conscientious.
Another problem? After-hour emails, which put pressure on workers to respond from home or the gym. Generating emails on weekends or after hours can make a person appear to be trying to impress – and can stress others who need that time free of work issues. If you like to respond right away, even after hours, use delay sending options in your email. That way, you can take care of your IN box without crowding the boxes of workers in off-hours.
Best Email Send Times
If you really want people to open and respond to your messages, schedule the emails to send during the best times. Blackman cites research showing people with email overload focus on the top lines, meaning you should send important messages when people tend to check their IN boxes. The time can vary, especially for internal recipients, but research suggests early in the week and early in the day (between 8 a.m. and noon) tend to have the highest response rates. If you send to multiple time zones, take that into account so you can schedule mid-morning send times.
Blackman also busts a few myths about business emails: First, we generally recommend avoiding all caps in emails because their use suggests screaming. Plus, traditional business writing tips preclude changing fonts and overusing bolding, italics or capitalization. However, judicious use of caps in small doses in your emails can help emphasize or clarify a point (“ONLY those of you employed for less than six months need to sign up”).
Although research has shown careful use of emojis to clarify meaning or emotion can sometimes pass in business writing, I would reserve their use generally for internal messages between team members only.
Blackman also added some tips for business email that have held true over the years. Mainly, remember to consider tone when composing all parts of a message. Single-word replies say less about a manager being too important to write a brief salutation and close than conveying distance, disagreement or other negative tones. Likewise, changing traditional sign-offs suddenly might signal to a worker or superior that the sender is angry or defensive.
Need more tips on composing business email messages? Call us at Business Writing That Counts! (425-485-3221) and take a look at our webinars, including popular online courses about email best practices, avoiding email snafus and crafting effective email messages.