Without a doubt, emails are the most common way of communicating in business today. That makes it even more important to avoid the following mistakes.
Mistake 1: (Too) short tailed
People that have to write tons of mails understandably try to save time. Therefore, their emails are reduced to the absolute minimum. Unfortunately, this is often at the expense of friendliness. Short and precise almost always appears rude and short tailed. Exception: If you know your recipient very well and they tend to mail very briefly and even without a greeting, you can copy this style.
My advice: Please take some time for a personal sentence, a smiley face (if it fits the receiver) or a friendly greeting. You would do all that in a phone call anyway.
Mistake 2: “Shouting”
We translate every sentence, every punctuation and every typographic alteration into an intonation when we are reading an email. And in general we tend to interpret the intonation more negative than it’s really meant. That goes especially for underlinings, bold printing or writing in capitals. They are interpreted as “raised voice” or even “shouting”.
My advice: Be careful where you use emphasis. If it’s especially important that words or sentences are not overseen, you can use accents anyway. But in this case, try to tune them down by courtesy forms like: “Please”, “Thank you in advance” and so on.
Mistake 3: Emails in conflict situations
If you have the slightest doubt that a topic can lead to a conflict, emails are an absolute no-go. As mentioned before, we tend to interpret the voice and the mood of the writer - and mostly not in a good way. As soon as the issue is difficult, that becomes a problem. Factual sentences may be read as accusing or aggressive. And in the next moment the reader is angry or hurt and you don’t know why.
My advice: Grab the phone more often than not, especially in this situation. Through your voice you can transmit that you are calm and factual or even friendly and understanding. You hear the reaction of your conversational partner and are able to respond to that.
Mistake 4: Too casual
I am a fan of casual email conversations. I like jokes, being creative in writing or changing to first names (which is a big issue in German-speaking countries). For me you don’t need to be to formal. But I am this type. If you don’t know your conversational partner, this premature familiarity can lead into a problematic situation.
My advice: When in doubt, match the style of your interlocutor. If they are formal, stick to formality too. A more casual style you can match as well. When you don’t know your conversational partner, use common polite forms. And as in my first advice said: Better to add one kind sentence than leave it away.
Mistake 5: Sending without control
I think everybody stepped into the “autocorrect-trap” before. A word or a name was changed automatically and you didn’t notice before sending your email. That is embarrassing and uncomfortable. Spelling and punctuation mistakes also appear as carelessness to the reader. One cares more, the other less, but it’s never a good impression.
My advice: Always take time to read your emails again before sending them. Also, look for the abovementioned mistakes 1-4. Read your email as if you were receiving it. This way it’s easier to discover mistakes or awkward wordings so you can correct them.
And one more thing: If you think all this takes way too much time, think about the following - how much time does it cost you if an email leads to a misunderstanding or disagreement? It’s always more time than it takes you to avoid these few mistakes.
By the way: All my advice is not only meant for conversations with clients but with colleagues as well. It always pays off to make a little more effort for other people. :-)