How Formal Is Too Formal for Business Emails?


In a generation where everything is fast and we can all connect with the click of a mouse or a tap on a screen, it is easy to skip a face to face conversation and opt to send our messages digitally, however one disadvantage of this is that when someone else receives our messages, they do not know our thought process at the time we are writing and cannot see our facial expression to get a sense of our mood. In spite of this, it is possible to enjoy the convenience email offers without making common faux pau.

Most business owners or employees spend about 30% of their work time sending out or receiving emails. Despite how popular the use of emails are in business, some people still don’t use emails properly. This is not surprise because you can hardly get a set of instructions or guidelines on how to use emails for work, so in most case we rely on our own discretion. Some common email mistakes and how to avoid them are:

1. Not offering a greeting. It is not a coincidence that we always answer the phone with a “Hello” or “Hi” or some form of official greeting when answering a business call. In the same vein, when sending emails, we should start with a standard greeting, a simple “Hello”, “Hi”, “Good Day”, “Dear [Name] would suffice. Also when closing, before you sign your name, be sure to include “Cheers” or “Regards”. This adds some warmth to the email. The kind of greeting you use should be determined on who the recipient of the email is, for example, you would use a more formal tone when sending an email to your boss and less formal to your colleague. When in doubt, you can match the same tone as the recipient, when sending a reply or from a previous correspondence with them.

2. Watch your use of language. English is the most widely used language in the world today, and in most workplaces. For some users it is not their first language, and even people who speak the language fluently, do make some common mistakes like, not using punctuation properly. Using the exclamation mark (!) more often than necessary, forgetting to use question mark (?) when prompting the user for a respond to a question, or sending an email in all UPPER CASE, which screams “Hey look at me”. Avoiding some of these common mistake would improve the rate at which your emails are received.

3. Matching the customer’s tone when replying. Picture this for a minute, you get this awesome new tablet, to help you run your business on the go. The tablet is really awesome and does all that you need and more, you are so impressed that you email the company, letting them know how their product has made your life a whole lot better, and you would be willing to write a review for the product. Their reply to you goes from the company goes thus, “We would keep that in mind. Thank you”. Would that make you feel a little less enthusiastic about the product? I know it would. The company missed it because the tone of the email was excited and pleased but the reply came across as cold and dry. Always try to detect the tone of the email, when replying to an email. When in doubt, try just be pleasant.

4. Sending out a reply in a hurry. As a business owner or an employee, you definitely must have received those emails; from people who don’t hesitate to show their displeasure about everything. As humans, there is the tendency to respond in kind forgetting the consequences like losing a customer or potential customers, starting a fight with your boss and all that. The thing about emails is that, emails can easily be shared and even when delete, they can be retrieved. It’s hard not to get angry when someone sends you a nasty email but you don’t have to respond immediately, take time out, and calm down before you reply.

5. Writing a book. We live in a busy world, we all have a loads of stuff to do, deadlines to meet and all that. I don’t know about you, but when I get a really long email, first I sigh and when I try to read it, I would pick out some lines which I feel are important, and when I have to reply, it is always incomplete. When sending out email, try to keep it to about 3 – 5 paragraphs, with each paragraph consisting of about 4 -7 sentences, so it does not overwhelm the reader. It is always better to handle complex issues in a meetings than using emails.



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