5 common email mistakes to avoid at work

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It’s hard to imagine a workplace that is not reliant on email.

With recent studies revealing that the average British worker spends 36 days a year answering work emails, it’s no wonder that many of us are feeling overwhelmed.

Emailing remains one of the most efficient, speedy and cost-effective ways to communicate in business. But as the number of emails you respond to increases, it can become very easy to adopt sloppy practices which can make the wrong impression, come across as unemotional or even discredit your professional image.

In this article, we identify the five most common email mistakes to look out for and show you how to avoid making them.

1. Forgetting the attachment or sending the wrong one

Forgetting to attach the document you are referring to throughout your long and intricate email can be embarrassing and unprofessional – especially when you have to send a follow-up email with the file attached. At the same time, sending the wrong file can lead to a very sticky situation. After all, not everyone in the office needs to know the bank details of a new supplier you have commissioned or how much you’re paying them. One way to overcome this common mishap is to attach the file before you compose your email and double check the preview file when it is attached.

2. Overlooking the tone

Studies have repeatedly shown that communication is over 80% non-verbal. This is important when you consider that email is 100% text, making it easy for you to forget the tone of your message might appear differently to the recipient. Stop and consider how the text will be perceived by the person on the other side of your email – could anything be misconstrued and taken the wrong way? Re-read your message before hitting the send button.

3. Forgetting to update the subject line

When you have been communicating in a lengthy email thread that has gone back and forth it’s natural for new discussions to arise. Most people forget to change the subject line when the discussion changes and it can become unclear what the email is about. Update the subject line of your email thread to ensure everyone is aware of the subject progression. Applying this tip will also make it easier to locate relevant information in the future.

4. Not encouraging a reply

Projects can often hinge on a response from a colleague or supplier. In this case, it’s important to prompt a reply by including a question that demands a response. If you let the recipient know that things are waiting on them, it will encourage a quicker response keeping your project moving forward. Also CC others in the email to encourage accountability and transparency. When multiple people are expecting a reply, there is greater urgency for the recipient to respond. This will ensure your email is actioned right away and not flagged for later consideration.

5. Sending an email in the first place

Consider if it would be more efficient to pick up the phone or, where possible, take a short walk to your colleagues’ desk and make the enquiry face to face. Opting for this action can result in open and creative discussions that could take you several hours to reach with emails. Emailing is a necessity but can be one of the most time-consuming tasks of your working day, so avoid it when possible.

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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