Email Salutations – How is your message received?

I know a lawyer who occasionally gets a rush of blood to the head and goes into the office very early in the morning to clear her inbox and generally catch up on outstanding administration. Emails are sent to junior lawyers with words like:

  • “see below – can you check into the question for the client thanks”
  • “ where are you up to with the ABC file”
  • “How far away is that research I asked you to do”
  • “don’t forget it’s billing this week – get your timesheets in today”
  • “fyi”

She thinks she is being incredibly efficient, running through her emails; but what do the junior lawyers think?emails

They probably think she is being rude and obnoxious, particularly if they come in to work and find three or four emails in a row sent at 5am, all like this.

Email is here to stay – it is used more and more as the preferred method of communication in workplaces – oftentimes people will send an email to the person sitting in the next office, rather than get up and walk next door to speak to the person, but that is a topic for another day.

But imagine if the lawyer in this story went to the door of the junior lawyer and said the things in the emails above and walked away? The junior lawyers would think she was even more obnoxious and rude.

So think carefully when sending this sort of abrupt email. She was not intending to be abrupt, but that is certainly the message that was being received. As much as we can defend ourselves and say we didn’t intend to be rude, the fact is that how our message is received, rather than sent is most important.

So to avoid having the wrong message being interpreted the sure fire way to improve your email communication is to always start with a salutation, and don’t rush the email. The salutation will vary depending on the person to whom it is directed. A simple “Hi” might do if it is someone with whom you are familiar. Using someone’s name – with or without a ‘Dear’ in front of it is another way of opening an email. If it is a Monday morning, a longer “hi – hope you had a good weekend’ is not only is good email etiquette but good manners (even if you are not actually that interested).

Even if you are good friends with someone, NEVER send an email starting ‘Hey b***h’ or something similarly hideous.

For emails going out of the office, play it safe and use the salutation “Dear’ in all correspondence – not only is it polite, but because your emails can end up annexed to an affidavit, it is safe.

People will read all sorts of things into the smallest detail of an email – make sure the message they are getting is the right one by framing your email salutation politely and professionally. For a more in depth look at this see the Forbes article.

What do you think? Are we being too old fashioned?