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Competencies covered

MSMSUP102: Communicate in the workplace

MSMSUP106: Work in a team


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If you use a computer as part of your work, you probably send and receive a lot of emails.

You may even have your email account linked to your mobile phone, particularly if you spend most of your time travelling or out on jobsites.

Because most people also use emails to correspond with their friends and relatives, their style of writing is generally much less formal than it would be in a letter, even when they're sending work-related messages.

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In itself, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

However, when you're corresponding with clients, suppliers and work colleagues, you need to keep your emails polite and businesslike, and avoid sending anything that might look unprofessional.

Below are some tips on how to send work emails that reflect well on you and your company.

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  1. Check your spelling and correct any mistakes before you send the message.

    It's easy to make typos on a computer keyboard, especially if you're typing quickly.

    But errors make your writing look careless, and it doesn't take much longer to correct them as you go.
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  1. Avoid 'SMS language' unless it is already an accepted practice between you and your recipient.

    Short message service (SMS) language is fine for mobile phones, where messages tend to be short and punchy.

    But in an email it can be confusing to a reader who doesn't know what it means - and even if they do, they may not regard it as appropriate language for a business relationship.

    We'll talk more about SMSs in the next lesson.
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  1. Avoid other forms of abbreviation unless you're sure that the receiver will understand them. The same applies to jargon words - that is, special terms that have technical meanings. If you need to use abbreviations or jargon, explain what they mean the first time you use them.
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  1. Use the 'Cc' line for people you are not addressing personally. 'Carbon copy' (or 'courtesy copy') is designed for copying in people who should be kept up-to-date with the messages but are not the direct recipient.

    Use the 'Bcc' line only when necessary. 'Blind carbon copy' is designed for copying in other people without the knowledge of the direct recipient.

    But you should be careful about using it for this purpose, because as a general rule it is always better to be up front with the recipient about who else is sharing your email correspondence.

    Bcc can also be used to hide the email addresses of a large distribution group. This is a handy way to avoid overcrowding the 'To' or 'Cc' line with a big list of addresses that individual recipients don't need to know.
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  1. Always assume that your work emails are not private.

    If you have a company email account, your company 'owns' the emails you send through it.

    This means they can legally read them if they want to.

    For that reason, you should only send material that you'd be happy for your boss to see.
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  1. Use the subject line to give your email a title. Try to summarise the point of the email in a few words. Don't call your email 'Hi' or 'Hey mate, it's Peter here'.
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  1. Remember that not all people use the same email programs.

    This means that formatting, coloured fonts, emoticons and other elements you see on your screen will not necessarily look the same on other people's computers.

    Your recipient may even be reading the message on their smart phone or some other device.

    So don't go to too much trouble formatting the text or inserting graphic elements unless you're sure that the reader has similar software and hardware.
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  1. Use an automated signature block at the bottom of your emails. Include your name, company, phone number and any other important contact information. Some companies also like to insert their logo as a graphic into the signature block.
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  1. Use the 'read receipt' option when you're sending an important email. In some email programs, you can turn on the 'Request a read receipt' function by ticking a box under 'Options'. This will let you confirm that the recipient has read your email.
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Learning activity

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Which email program do you use?

Do you have an automated signature block? If not, do you know how to set one up?

Also, have you used the 'Request a read receipt' option before? If not, do you know how to activate it?

If you haven't used either of these functions previously, go to your email system and find out how they work. For more information, click on the 'Help' icon in the email program or ask someone else at your workplace to give you a hand.

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