In each issue of Lynchburg Business, Scott Robert from the University of Lynchburg’s Career and Professionalism Center answers a question pertaining to professionalism in the workplace, interviews, business meetings and more.

Q: I feel like all I do is send and receive emails these days. How can I make sure I’m not getting lazy with my communication and stay professional in the eyes of my co-workers?

A: Email is the communication tool of choice for most of us while at work. Email is great because you don’t have to be available at the same time as your conversation partner to communicate. It allows us to keep projects moving when our co-workers are unavailable or on the other side of the world. There’s one problem, however. Most of us are drowning in emails.

The average person using email for business receives more than 100 emails a day—and that number has been going up since the pandemic started. On top of that, emails are all too easily misunderstood. A recent study found that almost 70% of people have sent or received an email that caused unintended anger or confusion.

Fortunately there is a way to help. First and foremost, know your purpose of the email. When you are writing your email ask yourself: “Why am I sending this? What do I need from the recipient?” If you do not know what you need, the email will be a potential waste of time for both you and the recipient. Respect the other person’s time and email box. 

Here are several additional tips to help you create and write professional workplace emails:

Use the “1 Thing” rule. Emails are not business meetings where multiple topics are worked through. The fewer topics in an email, the better.

Practice empathy. When writing your email think about your words from the recipient’s viewpoint.

Limit yourself to five sentences. Use enough sentences to say what you need. In most cases, five sentences should be enough.

Use standard structure. This means an introduction, pass on the information (or request), and closing.

Proofread your email before sending. Don’t be in such a hurry that you overlook this step that could save you from embarrassing autocorrect typos.


Do you have a business etiquette question? Send an email to editor Shelley Basinger at shelley@lynchburgmag.com

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