Why emails have a whole new etiquette post COVID-19

- June 10, 2021 3 MIN READ

As someone who has been running a successful PR and marketing company through the rise of the internet and advent of high-speed communications, I’ve experienced first-hand the impact and success gained from mastering written communication skills, writes Sharon Williams founder of Taurus Marketing.

Through COVID-19 and the move to remote workplaces, we’ve seen a sharp shift from face-to-face communication to online, and the subsequent rise of new and different communication habits in the workplace.

One such habit is the change in email etiquette.

The new post-pandemic world has no time to waste, so before you hit “reply” and “send” on an email, pause and quickly run your eyes over this list.

The six rules of email etiquette

1. Thorough reading is the new listening

With access to an endless choice of instant message platforms, our reading and writing comprehension skills are suffering as we tend to give less time to understanding something in full and often scan the message for key takeaways. This habit can result in unclear responses that slow the business down.  Reading thoroughly is the new listening, so take time to comprehend and digest the message before responding. Ask yourself what outcome you need from the recipient and the “who, what, where, when and why” in every virtual communication.

2. Avoid long emails

If reading thoroughly is the new listening then engaging with concise clarity is the best new habit. The long email that drags on is a thing of the past – now feel free to keep your emails short and simple. Make the purpose of your email clear within the first two sentences and be obvious and upfront – your recipient shouldn’t have to dig through unnecessarily long paragraphs to figure out what you are trying to say. State what needs to be actioned and by when – use bullet points where possible and say goodbye to cryptic emails and hello to accuracy and simplicity!

3. The power of the subject header

Your subject line should be short, sharp and to the point and easily searchable. This saves time and hassle and makes it easy to file, search and retrieve. I am a lover of getting attention via clever email subject headers when half the communication task can be achieved from reading in a windowpane.

4. Proofread all communication

Creating email content is just the beginning. Proofreading and taking the time to re-read your emails before you send them helps eliminate potential mistakes. . Confusing punctuation and petty spelling mistakes don’t usually go unnoticed. So do yourself a favour and take advantage of the endless supply of spell check software and other proofreading programs on offer.  With misunderstanding and miscommunication potential in today’s hybrid remote workplaces, think for your recipient and save unnecessary back and forth.

5. Watch your tone

Taking the time to proofread your emails gives you the chance to also double check you have conveyed the appropriate tone. With the move away from in-person to online communication, tone can be easily misinterpreted. Especially without the context of social cues or seeing someone’s facial expressions. Jokes and sarcasm may get lost in translation, so write for the person you are communicating with.

The tone and overall attitude of a message needs to be consistent with the formality and regard for the person reading it. Senior, junior, experienced or novice. Write according to your target audience.

6. I dare you to pick up the phone

The other day I had to be away from my laptop on a workday for more than a few hours. Rather than panic, I was reminded of the power of the phone. I experienced a rush of productivity when I used the phone to actually speak to people. In today’s business world we are virtually tied to our desks watching the next email hit our inbox. Get up and walk while you are on the phone and make direct contact personally. Nothing compares to having a real conversation one on one – it saves time and avoids unnecessary back and forth while also establishing unbeatable rapport.

In an online remote working world make it a focus to save time and maximise your professional and personal health. Get up and move and make correspondence short and to the point to move the business forward.

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