Writing a business letter so that everyone involved meets their deadlines and gets the right result is an art. And for some people, having to write formal correspondence can literally drive a person to a nervous breakdown. What’s the best way to say hello? How do you ask? How to demand?
We’ve decided to tackle this topic and have picked up 6 common mistakes that I’m sure will sound very familiar to you. If you eliminate these mistakes, working communication will be much easier and more enjoyable.
Inconsistency of the subject line with the content of the email
The importance of the subject line is greatly underestimated. Having written it once, and continuing correspondence in the chain of command, it takes a long time for the participants to find the necessary information. You have to read almost every letter where the subject is either missing or looks the same: “Fw: Fw: Fw: …”.
To make things easier for yourself and your colleagues, it is good business etiquette to write a new subject line each time a new task or deadline changes. After all, the letter needs a “headline” in order to be able to remember what the correspondence was about, even after several months.
Capital letters and exclamation marks
There are times when you want to stress an important point or show your impatience in business communication. But don’t abuse capital letters and exclamation points, as the person you’re talking to will take this as a scream.
“I don’t understand the use of exclamation marks instead of full stops. How do you read that? With an exclamation point?” forum users discuss the problems of email correspondence.
Even if emotions run high, it is better to write in a neutral, business-like tone, so that you are better understood, and more likely to get exactly what you want.
For example, instead of “IMMEDIATELY!!!” – “Deadline: today by 3pm”. The recipient of the email will realise without the exclamation points that they have made a mistake or blown the deadline. If not, explaining the situation in a calm tone will be much more effective than tearing up emotional phrases.
Nowadays, document management has gone electronic, which means that controlling deadlines has become a little more difficult. That’s why many people tag their emails with “Urgent”, red flags and exclamation marks. And that will do nothing but make the person you are writing anxious and reluctant to even open your letter.
According to business etiquette, you should replace the word “Urgent” with a specific deadline. For example: “Deadline: 17.01 by 5pm”.
It’s better not to use ASAP (“as soon as possible”), either.
An abundance of emoticons
A request that is voiced in a friendly tone is implemented many times faster than the one that was filed with the claim. Many people therefore try to soften the tone of their correspondence with emoticons. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s worth it to know the limits and never replace words with emoji.
Emails are a way of communicating with colleagues and partners on work-related issues. They discuss tasks, send reports and documentation. Everyone is working towards a result. In addition, in some cases emails can be used to prove someone’s innocence, for example. That means there should be as few things as possible that can be interpreted ambiguously.
“I worked in IT, in a team where the average age is around 40. Smiley faces are just that. The other thing is that it’s in intra-corporate correspondence. I used to put smiley faces in my boss’s emails too. But in business correspondence with partners I tried to contain myself. A maximum of one smiley, and then only if I was replying to an obvious joke in the letter”, a forum user shares his experience.
An abundance of “thank yous”
Thanking colleagues is, of course, necessary, and it only makes the partnership stronger.
“The rules of German business writing that are specifically taught come to mind. “Dear <name>. Thank you for your letter” – obligatory. And these are working rules, they are used in the letter”, – a forum user shares his observations.
But remember, too much politeness and too many thanks may play a cruel joke.
Thanking people for asking questions in a reply email is going too far. Even discussing the terms of the deal is just a dialogue. It’s not customary to say “thank you” for price clarification or comments on delivery times. In this case, politeness attracts attention, and it’s hard for a person to distinguish between the necessary information and the repeated “thank yous”.
Of course, business correspondence is a skill that can be developed. In addition, etiquette norms change from time to time, and you just have to follow the trends to avoid embarrassment in front of your partners. And this, with all the information available to everyone, is not difficult at all. Especially if you learn to put yourself in your interlocutor’s shoes and, when drafting a letter, think about how it would be more convenient and understandable for him.