Just like workplace dress codes and the unspoken rules of how to interact with coworkers, there are certain techniques used for how work emails need to be written.
Can an email to a coworker be too casual?
Of course, an email to a superior is going to be written formally, but how formal does it need to be?
How are you supposed to find out how to send the perfect email every time? Don’t worry; I’ve got just the information you need.
It’s safe to say that most people automatically adopt a more professional style of communication when they need to communicate with someone from work. This could be as simple as replacing a few casual-sounding words with something more eloquent. Or it could be as complex as going over every word until it sounds appropriate enough to pass as perfectly poised.
Because the model email for any given conversation isn’t given out in a welcome basket on your first day of work, it thrives on implied knowledge. The atmosphere of the workplace can be a good indicator of how communication is practiced, but there are occasions where it is not.
Verbal and Written Conversations are Very Different
It’s also pertinent to remember that verbal and written conversations are very different, and can vary on what is or is not proper. A superior may have a very laid-back and approachable demeanor in person, but have a very official presence in email correspondence. Since anything written leaves out tone and mood to help interpret meaning, it can be very easy to mistake what has been said.
Similar to having too much of a good thing, there is a point where being formal can become too formal. Referring back to a previous post, language is the only way to show formality in written communication.
So if your only tool for creating a well-worded email is the dictionary or thesaurus, it’s vital to know when too much is more than enough. The goal is to sound professional, yet still personable, not robotic.
If there is any confusion as to whether you’ve gone overboard, read your email aloud, and imagine using your email in a conversation. If it sounds natural it may be too casual, and if it sounds forced you need to cut back on the big words.
Finding a happy medium can take some time.
As easy as it can be to come across as too formal, it is even easier to seem not formal enough. Unfortunately, with most social connection being initiated via social media or phone messaging, the level of regular conversation has become more and more casual.
It can be a struggle to unlearn that casually-cool talk, and begin to integrate professionalism into your normal discourse. A great simplified guide to the do’s and don’ts of formal emails is available here.
An idea to keep you from getting too overwhelmed is to think of every email you write like a business proposal. It may sound silly, but it can really make a difference in the writing outcome. Think of the email recipient as a potential customer.
Of course, there is always a fine line between acceptable and preferred when it comes to emails. This is harder to generalize, as like previously stated; every workplace operates differently.
If this article hasn’t given you the answers you are looking for, maybe this in-depth slideshow will, as it covers every detail of writing a formal email, and basically holds your hand through the process.
Doing your Best to Impress
If you are still unsure about where your email writing stands on the formal scale, try to lean more on the too-formal side. I don’t mean to contradict myself, but by being slightly too formal an email is going to be more positively received than if it were to be too casual.
Once email communication becomes a more prominent part of your work routine, it will all come naturally. Responding with the perfect level of formality will be easier than ever before.
In all honesty, as long as you are polite, respectable, and are doing your best to impress it’s rare that anyone will chastise you for your email etiquette. While it’s best to try and emulate the same style of whomever you are emailing, only extremely casual conversation is going to get a negative reaction.
That doesn’t mean that knowing how to use a correct level of formality isn’t important, it definitely is, but if the effort is obvious minor mistakes won’t be the be all end all faux pas of your email communication.