Communication Skills: Email
Email, short for electronic mail, is a method of exchanging messages ("mail") between people using ICT devices. It's an important form of communication used for professional and personal purposes. As more and more services move online, the use of email is growing in importance. Email is useful in the following circumstances:
- You need to get in touch with a person who is hard to reach via telephone or in person
- You need to send an electronic file
- The information you need or want to share is not time sensitive
- You need to send the same information to different people
- You want to keep a written record of something
Email is not appropriate when:
- Your message is long, complicated or requires additional context
- The information is confidential
- The message may be emotionally charged
Think about the expectations of the people to whom you're sending the mail:
- Who is the recipient of the message? How often do they use email to communicate?
- What is the recipient's relationship to you—for example, your teacher, your boss, a friend or a stranger? How well do you know them? How would you talk to them in a social situation?
- What do you want the recipient to think or assume about you?
- What kind of impression do you want to make?
Obviously, if you're using email to contact a friend, you can be much more informal and relaxed, but if you're using email formally - college, work or elsewhere, here are some guidelines to take note of:
- Follow good practice
- Start the email with a greeting and include the recipient's name and title
- Do not reply to all unless it's necessary
- End the mail with a salutation ("Yours sincerely" etc) and your name and contact details
- Aim for clarity
- Keep emails short and to the point
- Include a meaningful subject line that reflects the content of the message
- Ensure that your message is clear and easily understood. Read it from the point of view of the recipient
- Emails are not texts. Don't use textspeak (e.g. LOL, SMH, LMK); it's not professional and the recipient may have no idea what you mean
- Watch your tone and your words
- Be polite and professional. Check that you don't come across as rude or abrupt
- Do not use capital letters. The use of capital letters makes it look like you're shouting
- Avoid sarcasm and others forms of speech that may be misunderstood in an online environment
- You are not the recipient, so don't use slang or phrases that you know and use regularly; again, your recipient might have no idea what you mean
- If you receive a mail that upsets or annoys you, do not reply immediately. Take some time to calm down and think whether the message was meant to upset. Perhaps it was just badly worded or phrased?
- Think about privacy
- Email isn't particularly private, or secure, so watch you write. Something said face-to-face might be quickly forgotten, but an email will be stored on a server somewhere. Also, emails can be "forwarded". Forwarding is the re-sending of an email message delivered to an email address to one or more other, different email addresses
- Don't include usernames, passwords, credit card numbers or other account information in emails
- Be careful sending files
- Use college and work email address for college and work matters
- When you're using a college or work email address, what you send reflects upon your college or work
- These may be monitored by your college or your employers, so be careful what you write in them
Here's an example:
You can download this template as a word document. Type your email using the Microsoft Word template and copy and paste your text into your email platform.