The Importance of Email Etiquette

The first time I was introduced to emailing professionally was on my Sears internship and I thought I was doing things correctly but I still had a lot to learn. I would think other students don’t get experience with communicating through email with a professional until they enter college when they start discussing with their professors and teaching assistants about assignments. But even at that stage, it is still very informal and student’s don’t see the importance of rereading your emails for corrections and picking precise words for brevity and to convey the right message. That’s the reason I stress the importance of internships and other similar professional experience because it gives you an opportunity to see what it entails to write emails to customers, supervisors, high-level management, and other team members. Before I had internships, I knew the basics of email etiquette but when I worked on my internships is when I was really taught about the importance of using words to be concise and portray the message you want. For example, during my internship with Clark County I was writing an email to a contractor to make sure that he got his DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, there are many different names for it but it’s basically to develop minority education) training in. There was a set date on when he had to have 100 hours of DBE training in, so I write in an email  “The Contractor should have 100 hours of training completed by 07/16/11.” My boss then tells me that it is too wishy washy and told me to change “should” to “will” that way the wording is more concrete. One piece of advice he told me was whenever I was having any correspondence with another professional I need to write like a lawyer and make sure that I’m absolutely clear because you never know when it can come back to you so you need to have your butt covered. So with that, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way regarding email correspondence and etiquette.

Before you hit SEND, remember that ANYONE can read your email. My supervisor would tell me horror stories about emails that have come back to haunt people and led to their termination.  Therefore, double check your grammar, words, punctuation, and if it makes sense or not. One thing I found that is really helpful is reading the email out loud; it really helps with finding mistakes and making sure you are using are instead of is when you’re suppose to. In our day and age, nothing is ever private so don’t send out something unless you don’t mind your mother reading it. One thing Turner tells us is that “You’re always wearing Turner Blue” so remember that when you send out an email it reflects not only you but your company as well; if you don’t represent your firm well then you soon won’t have a firm to represent.

Make sure you are CLEAR & CONCISE and get a second opinion before sending out any contract related emails. We talk to a lot of subcontractors about schedule, cost, and work and since we are their “bosses” and they take our word very seriously. This can lead to them misconstruing what we say and go against our wishes on purpose or by mistake. For example, it’s easy for miscommunication when you state that the project will be funded tomorrow and the contractor might mistake that for a green light and he starts work the same day but you must inform him that he cannot proceed until he gets a contract from you. There are a million examples of simple email exchanges that have lead to catastrophic mistakes because one person said one thing but the other interpreted it in a different way. Getting someone else’s opinion is extremely helpful because they can look at it objectively and provide a new pair of eyes to your email. For example, one of my coworkers asked me to look over his email and I saw that he used the word “scrambling” when referring to trying to make schedule so I told him to change that. He asked me why and I told him that it made us seem weak and unsure of what to do so we changed it to “working diligently.” It’s little things like that can make a huge difference in the eyes of your clients because this email was being sent to subs, the customer, and their bosses.

Create a professional looking signature. This is very important because it is usually a person’s first perception of how you conduct yourself and how professional you are. I’ve seen some horrible signatures with multiple pictures that adds clutter/attachments to the emails; you must remember that many people look at emails in more than one way so formatting that works over multiple platforms is important. I’ve found the best emails are very short and concise usually consisting of a person’s name, title, company, email, and cell. One advantage of having a signature is you don’t have to waste your recipient’s time by writing “Hi, my name is Khang with Turner Construction…” instead you can get their attention right away by stating the facts and what this email entails. If they wonder who you are, then they can look quickly at your signature and quickly figure it out. Remember, little things make a big difference.

Only cc the necessary people and contact the PROPER person. I didn’t know what email overload really was until I started working with Turner and on a typical day I can get over 100+ emails and even more when bids are due. I’m sure that the higher you are on the ladder, the higher your average daily email count will be. So if you want to get a prompt response then you need to learn to contact the right person or else it could get lost in their sea of emails. You’ll find that some people are very diligent with their inbox while others are stuck in a cluster**** and have a very difficult time responding to emails in a timely manner. So be courteous to your recipients by only sending them an email if it is pertinent to them and make sure you contact the person who is the decision maker or can get you into direct contact me that person.

These are only a few things I’ve learned throughout my internships and my short time with Turner. You will learn quickly how important email correspondence is to you being a successful employee and company representative. Practice it and make sure to be diligent, organized and also professional because people will take notice. Remember, when it comes to email, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.

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