5 No-Nos When Writing Professional Emails

Posted On: January 30, 2015

The below five tips are suggested to avoid at work when interacting over email by the Business Insider. I will share their tips, along with how they apply to the majority of the companies I work with and the feedback from US clients and counterparts. 

5 No-Nos When Writing Professional Emails

1. Waiting to respond to an email until you know the answer — even if it takes days. 

Americans may be considered impatient by Indians, but to build a better relationship respond immediately or as soon as possible. Do not wait until they may reach their office in the morning (your evening in India). Remember, they will see the time stamp.

So, what do you do if you don’t know the answer?

Let’s say you know a partial answer – Send them a response answering whatever queries you can, and note that the unanswered ones will be answered as soon as possible.
You don’t know the answer at all – Respond immediately to confirm you received the email and that you are working on the answer. Provide an estimated time it will take you to respond. Assure your respond in that time frame. This builds trust.

Do not wait until your status update call. Many Indians feel better about talking to the client on the call or if they will meet the person face to face, waiting until that meeting happens. This will not be a good idea. The earlier you can respond, and by email (or phone, and leaving a voice mail), the better impression you will leave. 

In some circles, this tip should be the rule of thumb IF YOU WORK IN ANY KIND OF VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT. Regardless of the culture you are from, your colleagues are from or your clients or stakeholders are from or living in, when working virtually, it’s important to over communicate and stay in touch as we are not seeing each other in the office, we only “see each other” through our emails, pings, instant messages and other written communication. If we don’t write, it’s like we don’t exist. If we don’t exist to the other people or person we also lose visibility not only in the now, but into the future when it’s time to network, move up in the company, get promotions or other types of accolades that require us to know other people and maintain relationships. (This is more true now than ever in 2020 when we are all working from home.) 

2. Assuming that you don’t need to respond if you’re more junior than others receiving the email.

This is a common problem in India, especially in more traditional offices. If you are indeed the right person to answer this question, do hit respond and answer. Of course, this may disturb the natural culture in your office place. This is a company and team culture dilemma. If in fact your team’s culture is that only the most senior person respond to emails or talk on the phone, it’s better that only that contact is in touch with the client. Americans and Westerners expect to hear directly from the person doing the work, and not the manager unless there is a problem.

3. Sending out “gentle reminders.”
Refer to the article for their advice. 

4. Responding to a serious or sensitive email with only “OK.”
Responding to any serious or sensitive email with one word, regardless of that one word is bad etiquette. The sender of the original email may think you did not read the email. Plus, if there are many discussion points, the American will think you agree or will do everything in the email, especially, if you say ‘ok’. Elaborate more, while being concise. Saying “ok” or one word is meaningless. The sender is not a mind reader, and will know what you actually read, and in most cases, the sender may think you did not read the email at all! Note what you agree to or are saying ok to. Find polite ways to decline or review the other topics later. 

Many we coach also resort to “ok” as a way to continue a conversation, when actually “ok” adds no value to continuing a conversation. We must learn to listen to (or read) what the other person says, acknowledge it then return back with our answer or a question to them. 

If you use OK a lot, take note of this in emails, SMS, pings, instant messages or spoken English and apply the tip above to start having richer, more meaningful interactions with others in your professional circles. 

5. Sending emails that are too long or aren’t clear about what action you’re requesting
In sessions (training and virtual 1 to 1 coaching sessions) conducted by Authentic Journeys, we look at the steps of consolidating long emails into concise, bulleted emails that are easy and quick to understand and respond to. No one wants to get a long email. It is easier for the writer to write as he or she speaks, but this is not convincing business writing. Learn to consolidate your thoughts into bulleted categories for easier reading by the recipient. It will take you longer as a writer to apply this skill, but it will assure a better response rate for your emails both in a reduced response time and better or more agreeable responses.

Take a look at these free email tutorials to learn how to format concise, easy to read emails that are answered quickly by your counterparts. 

To read this article and the tips from Business Insider.

Jennifer Kumar elevates the communication standard of your offshore team to avoid these 5 no-nos when writing professional emails while ensuring they focus on messages that build relationships and amplify your company’s expertise. Learn more about our email writing program or get in touch with us.

Related Posts:

Avoid answering with only “ok” or “yes”, and what to do instead 
More tips for Email communication – do’s and don’ts 

Photo: mentatdgt from Pexels
Original Post Date: 1/15, updated 5/2020


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