Professional e-mail etiquette is critical to communicating clearly and making a good impression. This is true whether it is the first time or in daily e-mail exchanges.
Though e-mails are considered more casual, it’s best not to treat them as casual. Simple errors, if avoided can leave a stunning and memorable impression, while some fatal flaws will leave your queries unanswered or misunderstood. Here are a few tips to improve your communicative English skills while writing e-mails.
DO NOT Use Text Messaging Language
Avoid texting language. It does not look professional. As it is full of misspellings, incorrect grammar, emojis and casual language, this can create an impression in the receiver, thinking you lack English communication skills. This is more critically important when working with foreign native English speaking clients. Text messaging and casual language will give the impression that one is lacking English skills and does not value the relationship to use proper language.
DO NOT USE Abbreviations Without Proper Etiquette
Do not assume that those abroad understand Indian, company or college specific abbreviations. Some abbreviations are acceptable if they refer to the program, and those abbreviations are on the college website. When using abbreviations from India or specific companies or colleges unfamiliar to the reader of your letter, follow this protocol:
“Previously, I earned my Master’s degree from Madras Christian College (henceforth, MCC) in India. (Later in the paragraph) At MCC, I was involved in many activities and internships as noted on my attached resume.”
Note, as of 2018 or 2019, some claim the opposite etiquette also applies (writing the expansion in the parenthesis). For example:
“Previously, I earned my Master’s degree from MCC (Madras Christian College) in India. (Later in the paragraph) At MCC, I was involved in many activities and internships as noted on my attached resume.”
Avoid texting abbreviations. Spell out the entire word.
DO NOT Forget to Use Greetings and Salutations
Always open with “Dear [Name of Person]:” and end with “Regards” or “Sincerely” or other appropriate closings. For letters to the USA, avoid opening with the general “Sir” or “Ma’am” without a name as common in some parts of India. Americans like to be addressed by their names. Sign your name. Always use greetings and salutations in initial inquiries and concurrent communication. It looks more neat and professional.
The first time interacting with a US client, err on the side of formality. Do not use the first name or short name first, like is done in many parts of India. In the first introduction (or after a long gap), refer to the person as Mr. or Ms. Last Name. They will correct you and let you know how to call them. Don’t feel bad if they do this. It is normal. Calling them their first or especially short name first can cause a bad first impression.
Do Not Forget to Check Spelling
Run the spell check. Do not limit your spell check to the check that is done automatically through your e-mail program. Double check with your own eyes- learn to self-edit. Many words have multiple spellings (there/ their/ they’re) each with different meanings. Sometimes the wrong word gets typed in but is spelled correctly, so this becomes a mistake.
Do Not Forget to Check How Your E-mail ID Renders
Assure your e-mail ID renders along with your full name in the response e-mails, in the header. The image underneath is a suitable example of email rendering. Assure your name is spelled out fully, (with any titles, if appropriate), and your id is appropriate. The best ids have your name, business name, or related text.
If we have to send a follow-up e-mail to correct our mistakes, it would waste the other person’s time and they may get irritated. We want to avoid this as much as possible.
Simply put, you are the service provider. Your client pays you to do a job for them. How you present yourself to them depends on their continued business or referrals to other clients. Let them misbehave. You better not. Whenever in doubt, follow the above tips.
See: How do you want to be remembered by your clients?
See: Why do I have to make small talk when my clients don’t? Author, Jennifer Kumar is hired by Indian corporates to help them communicate more effectively with Americans. If you are looking for communicative English (Email training program) and cultural sensitization training programs in Infopark, Kerala, contact Jennifer today.
Saying Thank You in Business E-mails
Original post: 5/2014, updated: 4/2020
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