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Writing an internal email

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How to write an internal email

Whilst it’s perfectly acceptable for internal emails to be less formal than those which you’re sending to external clients or customers it’s still important to remember that all business emails should still be treated seriously. Information should be conveyed in a clear and concise manner and it’s also important to note that many companies will still keep every single email which every employee has sent or received on an internal company mail server, even if you’ve deleted them from your own mailbox. This means that you need to take care of the way you write your internal emails and carefully consider what you’re saying.

Golden rules of internal email

Firstly, don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want anybody within the company to read. Don’t criticise a boss or fellow employee unless you’d be happy for the person whom you’re criticising to see that email too, as they just might. People have had disciplinary action taken against them as a result of bad-mouthing their boss or supervisor to a colleague within an email. Similarly, unjust criticism or comments that challenges somebody else’s integrity, competence or honesty can, if discovered and traced back to you, result in libel action against you.

Clear and concise information

Whilst it’s not strictly necessary to use formal language such as ‘Yours sincerely’ in an internal email, make sure that the information you’re conveying is still as precise and clear as it would be if you were talking face to face. For example, if you’re arranging a meeting, make sure the time, date and location are clearly indicated on the email. You’ll be only too aware of the vast amount of emails that come into your inbox each day so you can be certain that your colleagues, and especially your boss, will get just as many and, perhaps, even more, so keep the emails short and to the point and put an appropriate subject title. That way, your colleague will know whether they need to look at it straight away or whether it can wait until later.

Sending and response

Clearly understand that although your email will be received within a second or two of sending it, that you should not be expecting an immediate response. It’s important that, as a communication tool, email is one of the most important tools at our disposal these days, giving us the opportunity to send a message to people all over the world in an instant. However, no matter that you’ll always respond to email the second it lands in your inbox, not all people are the same and colleagues may be out of the office or simply busy when you send them an email and you should not get annoyed if you don’t get a response straight away. If you prefer, in response to an email that needs a reply, you can always get back to the person in a brief message and tell them you’ve received it and that you’re a bit busy but will get back to them later.

Email and emotions

When writing an email, it will not always allow you to get your message across in the way it was intended as a face to face conversation or a phone call can do. It cannot, for example, convey the same message as if you were speaking it as a hand gesture, facial expression or the tone of your voice might do. Therefore, if you need to express urgency, you should always send the email as ‘high priority’ but be careful about overdoing that. Some people will only look at high priority emails on the same day and will come back to the rest later on in the week, so if you’re constantly making all of your messages high priority so that they get looked at quickly and you’re just writing to ask a colleague what they got up to over the weekend, you could very well end up annoying people or, worse still, they may just start ignoring your emails. Also, be very careful if you are angered or upset by an email. In fact, it’s good practice to always leave an email you receive a good half-hour at least before you respond to it if it’s of a serious nature or it’s something that’s upset or annoyed you. An ‘angry’ written response can often come across far worse to the recipient than you might have intended. And, a hasty reply to a complex issue might indicate to the sender that you haven’t really given their message that much thought.

Good email housekeeping

If you receive lots of emails a day from colleagues that are relevant, set up individual folders in your inbox to file them, e.g. meeting mails, mails to reply to later, company information, latest updates etc., so that you can refer to individual emails quickly, if you need to. Make sure you delete your mailbox regularly to avoid unnecessary storage of out of date emails that are no longer relevant.

The use of ‘cc’ and ‘bcc’

If you need to send an email to several people simultaneously, only copy in (cc) those who really need to see the email. If it doesn’t pertain to them directly, don’t cc them in just for the sake of it. It’s useful, however, to ‘blind copy’ bcc yourself in to any emails you might send or keep a record of them in your ‘sent items’ box. That way, if there has been any misunderstanding or you’re questioned about whether you’ve sent an email or not or at the time said you sent it, you’ll have kept a record of it to refer to.

Attachments and jokes

Firstly, not all people like to receive joke emails, especially those with attachments. You are in a place of work after all and on company time so you should avoid these at all costs, unless your boss is a joker and sender himself. Attachments are one of the main sources of computer viruses and Trojans so never open an attachment unless you’re 100% sure that the person who’s sent it to you is not going to send you a virus. Even then, spammers have sophisticated methods these days so, wherever possible, don’t open an attachment unless there’s some text in the body of the email of another employee who has specified what the attachment contains and that it’s safe. And, if you’re the sender, try not to use attachments unless absolutely necessary and then follow the same guidelines so that your recipient knows it is safe to open the attachment. And, if you suspect a phishing email or dodgy attachment has arrived in your inbox, don’t open it but simply forward the entire email to your IT support team.

Final thought

Emails are part and parcel of everyday life these days but, although they can save us time, they can also take up far more of our time than it can save, so don’t just blast internal emails around indiscriminately and don’t send any non-important mail to colleagues sitting across the desk from you. Sometimes, an old fashioned brief conversation can even be quicker than electronic communication.

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