Conversational Email: A Guide to Best Practices

The rise of conversational email can make it difficult to figure out what best practices and good etiquette looks like when drafting a message, especially when doing so for business purposes. Should we use an informal greeting, or is a quick ‘hey’ the done thing? What tone of voice should be deployed?

Following proper email, etiquette not only boosts your appearance of professionalism but also helps you to work more efficiently. Use the guide below to navigate the brave new world of conversational email to ensure that your professional messages hit the mark every time.

Use Your Business Email Address

Best practice dictates that you keep your personal and work email apps separate. It can be very tempting if you’re at home and want to send a colleague a quick message about a meeting or project to drop them a line from your personal account, but it’s best not to. Sending business-related emails from your personal account can come across as unprofessional and is generally advised against. If you’re discussing sensitive or personal matters, it’s especially important to avoid them.

Plus, keeping your personal and professional business accounts separate means your work inbox is much less likely to get bombarded with spam and marketing messages.

Use a Proper Subject Line

It’s important to use a subject line in your email messages – but ideally, you should go one step further and ensure that the subject line you create gives the recipient a clear idea of what your message is about. This is the case whether you’re using a conversational email platform or a traditional email client.

Aim for your subject line to get straight to the point. If you’re messaging to ask a colleague for some figures you need to take into a meeting later, a good subject line would read ‘Request for information for budgeting meeting today.’

Only Use Standard Formatting

When writing a personal message, it’s fun to change the text fonts, size, color, etc. However, when creating an email for work, it’s important to limit yourself to standard formatting. Bold or italics can be used, but only for a single word or a short string of words per message.

Use a Professional Greeting

Emailing may seem like an informal means of communicating, but there are many situations when you need to use a professional greeting. Avoid using a salutation such as ‘hey’ – instead, opt for an alternative like ‘good morning/afternoon,’ ‘hope this email finds you well,’ or a simple ‘greetings.’

Keep it Succinct

Short and sweet is the way to go with email messages. It’s generally considered best practice to ensure messages are as succinct as possible – at work, most people dread receiving a huge tome of text in their inbox.

Be Mindful of Caps

Apart from in the case of acronyms and initialisms, using caps is the email equivalent of shouting at some and is not the done thing in terms of email etiquette. No matter how strongly you feel about things, keep that finger far away from the caps lock button.

Consider the Tone of Voice

When drafting a message, always ensure that the tone of voice used matches your intent. Also, be mindful of the fact that, without visual cues, there’s the possibility of ambiguity of meaning. For example, using frequent exclamation marks may mean your email has an excited tone and risks being viewed as unprofessional.

When reading your message back, try to imagine how it will be read by the recipient to identify anywhere that the tone or content needs to be tweaked.

Attach with Care

If you need to send an especially large attachment, it’s considered best practice to check with the recipient if this is ok to do. If you’re given the green light, it’s advisable to compress the file as much as possible before sending it and to give the recipient a head’s up regarding when you’re planning to send it.

As an alternative to sending emails with large attachments, you could consider sending the recipient a link to a file stored in the cloud, such as those saved to DropBox or Google Drive.

Acknowledge All Messages

Even when engaging in conversational emailing, it’s considered good etiquette to respond to all messages, even if the sender hasn’t explicitly asked for one. Always aim to respond to incoming messages within two business days (unless a more urgent response is needed) – this approach could well make you stand out from the crowd for your professionalism and courtesy.

Proofread Thoroughly

It’s easy to dash off a quick email and hit send without reading back what you’ve written. However tempting this is, resist and take a few moments to proofread your message thoroughly. If you can, reading it out loud is a great idea, as your eyes may skim over a typo or other error without catching it.

Conversational Emailing: Ensuring Best Practice

Use the guide above to uplevel your emailing game, and ensure that the messages you write for work purposes are as professional as possible. Making just a few small changes can make a really big difference to how you’re perceived at work and could even position you to take the next step in your career.

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Last Update: February 16, 2023