Beyond Emoticons: 5 Smarter Ways To Connect On Email
Ah, emoticons. The constant companion to teenage text and email shorthand. Example? LOL :) And at times, these symbols might even be appropriate for adults. "Emoticons are efficient for personal communication where a pre-existing relationship exists and where shorthand may be preferred and easier," notes executive coach Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. But unless you’re chatting with your office BFF (!) about weekend plans on IM, it’s probably best to leave emoticons out of your work repertoire entirely. "They are rarely appropriate for business correspondence. They can look silly...even juvenile," says Cohen. Here are 5 better ways to connect via email while on the job:
Be As Polite As Possible
Mind your P’s & Q’s both on and offline. "Use ‘please’ or ‘I’d appreciate’ when making direct requests and explain your reasoning: this will show the person that you’re aware of other commitments or responsibilities s/he may have," notes Colette Ellis, Principal at InStep Consulting. Another tip from Ellis: skip commands like "ASAP" or "immediately," except when you really need something, well, ASAP or immediately. Instead, ask for something to be handled at the person’s earliest convenience.
You don’t have to use symbols to convey a friendly or empathetic tone--use words. "Write an email using correct grammar, spelling, and letter-like content. Take your time and re-read what you say before you hit send," suggests career coach Meg Montford, CEO Of Abilities Enhanced. Sending an email without any typos shows that you took some care.
Read It Aloud
Reading an email out loud (as well as in your head) lets you hear it as the person you’re sending it to will read it. "Consider how you would feel if you were to receive the message from someone else – are there any words or phrases that could be perceived as being unpleasant or confrontational?" says Ellis. If there are, take another pass at it.
Using email successfully requires conveying a professional, clear tone. Nothing can destroy that goal faster than misplaced sarcasm. And since you can’t use your face or hands to convey your joke, sarcasm can often fall flat on email. "Be concise and focus on getting your point across in a neutral tone. Jokes and sarcasm can easily sound too harsh, even if you mean it nicely," says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, Partner with Six Figure Start.
Pick Up The Phone
If you’re unsure that you’re finding the right tone, consider walking over to that person’s desk or giving them a call. The point is, email isn’t always the best way to handle a situation, particular if it’s sensitive, says Ellis. By phone, you can gauge the person’s response to what you’re saying and adjust your tone and message accordingly. In person, you can use their body language and facial expressions as well.