This post is part of a Corporate Millennial Series on Huffington Post with advice for the workplace.
The Corporate Millennial Guide: Email at Work
After getting your foot in the door and starting a new job, one of the first things you'll encounter is your corporate email account.
Using your work email appropriately is important. If you use it inappropriately, you may find yourself at the center of a corporate audit, or worse. Too often I've seen new hires make these basic mistakes and I cringe when I see them appear in my inbox.
So let's start with some basics I share in my team.
1. Only email when you absolutely must. Can you call? Can you use a messaging service? Can you go get a coffee together and talk in person? Email is a last resort.
2. If you absolutely must send an email, keep it as short as possible. The shorter the email, the more likely that I'll read it. Be a ruthless editor and cut out anything that isn't required.
3. Respect is required. Your emails belong to the company, and could potentially be used in lawsuits, in human resources files, or broadly shared within the organization. Always be respectful. Your email is a reflection of you. Are you sloppy, lazy and long-winded? Or are you organized, thoughtful and straightforward?
4. Email is not a text message. Write out your words. You may enjoy using abbreviations in ichat, wechat, facebook messenger, and other platforms, but in email, these are generally inappropriate.
5. Work email is not your personal email. It belongs to the company. Your employer is investing heavily to protect it and back it up on extra servers. It is not for your personal photos, family emails, or other non-work uses.
6. Do not forward work emails to your personal account. This can land you in serious trouble.
7. Use the approved corporate signature. Usually companies have a standard format for all employees. While you may be tempted to add jpgs or favorite quotes to personalize your email, do not. This is not your email. It belongs to the company. And if your email was ever to be included in a deposition or put on the front page of a newspaper, you can't have a potentially serious topic being discussed on the same email print-out as a silly jpg.
8. Start the email with a formal salutation. You're never too busy to add a "Dear Name" to your email. Again, resist the temptation to use informal language. Writing "Heya Boss-lady!!" is not professional.
9. End the email with a formal closure like "Sincerely" or "Kind Regards." If you think you cant handle this, add it into the signature feature of your email so it automatically appears with your corporate signature.
10. Think about the subject line. If the subject says "response requested by Friday", then I know this email requires my attention. If it just says "update" then it may be some time till the email is opened and read.
11. Say what you mean. Avoid extra phrases that don't add value - "I'm sure you're really busy but" and "I'm really sorry to bother you but I was wondering if you might perchance be interested in" are two common ones. Just say what you mean. Be clear.
12. Read your email before you send it. Check for spelling errors. Turn on the automatic setting for spell check if you can't remember to do this.
13. Don't blind copy people. This never ends well. If you want to send someone an email, then send them the email in the address line. Don't try to be sneaky or clever with your emails. Technology is transparent.
14. Don't forward emails from other people unless you've asked them if it's ok. Keep in mind that someday you will send an email to someone and they will forward it to many people that you didn't want them to send it to. You know how that feels. Don't do it.
15. Don't reply all. This is inexcusable - and annoying.
16. Don't use all caps. Yes, people think you're "yelling."
17. Don't use bold, underlining or italics unless it's really appropriate.
18. Do not use smiley faces or emoticons.
19. Do not use serial exclamation points. (!!!) One is fine. And remember, an exclamation point is not a substitute for a comma, or any other appropriate punctuation.
20. If you can send a link instead of an attachment, send a link.
21. Don't assume people read their email as fast as you do. If you've requested a reply by a certain date, call and follow up. Don't keep emailing.
22. Don't assume people understood your email. If you get a reply that is confusing, or upsetting, do not reply in another email. Pick up the phone and call. It may be that something was lost in translation, or that your wording was unclear. Give the person the benefit of a doubt.
23. Do not send email when you are upset or emotional. Wait till you've calmed down.
24. If you use an away message, make is useful. If you are telling people you are away, include an alternative contact or an emergency number, as well as the date when you will return. I am always surprised by the number of "I am out of the office" auto-replies that are completely useless and lack assistance for an alternative contact or date when the person will return.
25. Email is for communicating, not storage. Use your company shared drives, and company computer to store files. Don't keep power point files, excel files, pictures, etc. in email folders as storage.
26. Practice good email hygiene. Know your company's rules for saving and deleting emails. Some topics may be subject to a litigation hold and you should not delete them. Others should be deleted regularly to avoid unnecessary data storage and protection costs. Ask your IT team about the appropriate approach and follow it.
Sending meaningful and useful work emails is a skill that is developed over time.These are only a few of the tips I share with new hires, but I know there are more, so add them in the comments below!
Next up in our Huffington Post Corporate Millennial Series is work meetings and presentations.