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Writing Professional Emails: Part 2 – Know Your Audience and Greeting Styles

7 mins read

This article is written to provide you with details around why it is important to know who your audience is before you begin writing your email.

In part 1 of this series, we discussed the recipient fields and the importance of understanding the main purpose for each field when considering who the email message is intended for. In part 2 of this series, we will be discussing the importance of knowing your audience and adapting your writing styles to match.

How we communicate in an email is an extension of our personal brand and company, which is why it is important to be aware of your writing styles when writing an email. In addition to this awareness, it is also important to take the audience, with whom you are in direct conversation with, into consideration by adapting your writing style to match their comprehension level. When you combine these three elements into writing an effective email, you maintain a professional image while increasing the chances that the recipients understand the message that is being communicated.

When it comes to your audience, we recommend using approachable language that is reader-friendly. This ensures that the message is going to be received in a positive tone and demonstrates respect between all email correspondents.

With that, caution should be applied as approachable language can come off as too familiar. Using a familiar writing style can be perceived as disrespectful to certain recipients, especially in situations when you are dealing with a serious subject, conversing with someone which you have no relationship with, or in direction conversation with high authority/profile personnel (i.e. Company President or Police).

When greeting your recipients, exercise caution to using familiar laid-back expressions like “Hey”, “You” “Yo”, or “Hi Folks”. This type of greeting style may be acceptable when writing an email to a friend or close colleague; however for reasons like above, it can come off as impolite or disrespectful. Which is why it is always important to consider the company’s culture, who the audience is, and the subject matter.

In addition to using familiarity or laid-back expressions, avoid using text lingo, humour, or swear words in work emails. Remember when recipients are reading your email, they are missing two key components that effective communication which are tone and body language.

There are certain phrases that can be demeaning to the reader which may have an undertone of passive-aggressive or impatience such as:

  • “As per”, “per our”, “per my” or “simply stated”, “to put simply”
  • “I’m not sure if you received my last message” or “just checking in”

Whether you are responding to an email to provide an answer or asking for an update, its always best practice to be direct with your response or update politely. Refrain from playing games and conversing in a manner that can come across as passive-aggressive or impatient.

Showing respect to others in an email goes beyond how you greet them or what your writing style is. It is important to continue showing respect by refraining from using gender specific terminology such as “Hey Guys” to generalize a group of people. This can come across as disrespectful, especially when a recipient gender identifies as a female, gender fluid, or non-binary for example. Leading practice is to use words like “employees”, “staff”, or writing out the recipient’s whole name without the use of gender specific pronouns.

Business emails are not the place to show off your vocabulary! It is important to remember and understand who your audience is that will be reading the email, using clear and simple language is proven to be far more effective in business settings. Stay clear from using cliches, technical jargon, or buzzwords. A general rule when writing, if the word does not come across in regular conversation or someone has to look it up, do not mention it in your email.

There are some instances where a word is used in your line of work. For example, in human resources a common term used is Total Direct Compensation. If this is the case, explain the term in the email so everyone can understand the meaning of it and can become accustomed to the word when it is used in the future.

Knowing who your audience is before writing your email is crucial, as you want all recipients to read the message in a respectful positive tone, which is easily understood. We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that once an email is sent, you do not have any control over where that message ends up or how it will be perceived. Which is why we recommend being mindful of your writing style as using certain phrases, familiarity, swear words, laid-back expressions, or gender specific pronouns can be interpreted as rude and disrespectful.

For more information on Writing Professional Emails, be sure to see Part 3 of the series, “Fonts and Formatting.”

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