This post was written by Emily Brown, a regular contributor to The Works and a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at Northeastern University. She is also a Career Development Intern
Email is often the principal form of communication in business settings. As you begin co-op or your first post-grad job, keep in mind that how you present yourself via email can contribute to your overall reputation among coworkers. Keeping in mind some simple email etiquette can help ensure you build a positive reputation at the workplace both in person and online.
- Use an appropriate level of formality – be more formal with higher level professionals, but also mirror others’ email style and address them with the same level (or higher) of formality with which they address you
- Provide a clear subject line
- Respond within 24-48 hours
- Double check that the email is going to the correct person – Autofill isn’t always as helpful as it’s meant to be
- Acknowledge receipt of emails even if it does not require a response – especially if someone is providing you with information you need
- Be concise – emails should be short and to the point
- Number your questions – if you’re asking multiple questions, the person on the receiving end is more likely to read and respond to them all if they’re clearly broken out
- Include a signature – no one should have to search for your contact information
- Don’t overuse the high priority function
- Use “reply all” sparingly and only cc those who need the information
- If you forward someone an email, include a brief personalized note explaining why
- Remember, no email is private – once you hit send, you have no control over with whom the email is shared. This is particularly important if you are working for any type of government agency in Massachusetts, in which case email is considered public record.
While these are generally good rules of thumb, it is also important to be aware of the company culture. Some companies rely more heavily on email for in-office communication than others. If you see coworkers approaching one another with questions, you should probably do the same. To avoid guessing, ask your supervisor about communication preferences when you start the job. And even an in email culture, it’s probably best to use the phone for last minute schedule changes or cancellations.
Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.