Remote workers spend a considerable amount of time communicating with their teams and clients through email. For a freelancer, the ability to write effectively is an essential skill, and in a mixed-method world where all factions of people, from millennials to baby boomers, are interacting with each other through email communication, you’ll want to make sure you know how to write professionally in a remote business environment.
From copy to color to tone, in this blog we’ll break down best practice methods from technological professionals and media companies across the country — and give you an opportunity for a little bonus:
First off, when it comes to the copy itself, avoid friendly shorthand like BTW or LOL when you communicate with external contacts like clients and client team members, and depending on who it is, some internal contacts as well. To save time, there are several common and appropriate acronyms for the work environment, including EOW, which means end-of-week (and its partner, EOD or end-of-day), OOO, the acronym for out of office, and good old ASAP — as soon as possible.
If you are a designer that likes emoticons, follow the same discretion; but if you absolutely love to use them, the smiley face J is well accepted in the professional community. Just don’t go overboard!
Many remoters can also go crazy with an array of different colors and fonts and formatting. You’re better off sticking to the basics and focusing on the message — technicolor emails hurt the eyes and confuse your reader. In addition, certain small or large font sizes are not recommended, especially depending on the device on which your recipient is reading. Exploring this MailChimp typography guide is especially helpful.
Also try and refrain from using multiple font colors. Most default to the standard black color, which, in HEX codes, is #00000. Some freelancers try and mix it up with navy blue, or emphasize a word in red. It’s not as bad as using three different fonts in three different colors in one email, but try and avoid overcompensating with these tools by focusing on the actual message. Also remember that highlighting copy within emails is not recommended, either.
And while email correspondence and texts with our friends and peers can neglect case and be written in all lowercase, it’s never recommended in business correspondence. To maintain professionalism, stick with gold old, standard sentence case, like you see here in this blog.
Subject Line and Tone
With these basics in mind, you may be wondering what the best strategy is for your subject line. HubSpot’s research of one-to-one email correspondence found that while emails with no subject line tended to receive more open rates than those that had a subject line, we still don’t recommend this tactic regularly. Especially with clients or people you don’t know personally, this strategy could quickly backfire, as the message does not delineate anything about the contents. Instead, use a brief subject line that’s descriptive of the core contents of your message.
Finally, put a lot of focus on the tone of the message. Tone is one of the most misunderstood aspects of emails in addition to the copy itself, often creating misunderstandings of what we meant by the way we said it.
Because we are hyper-sensitive to tone, most of us either try to come off too formal, while some of us overcompensate with emoticons and exclamation points. Many young developers utilize emoticons and exclamations to show their enthusiasm, and there’s no harm in a little bit of that, but it’s better to use rich adjectives in order to maintain the best tone, especially with clients.
Bonus: Shortened URLs & Hyperlinked Text
If you follow everything above, you’re in really good shape — but if you want to go for a bonus, shorten long URLs or hyperlink a set of text so the email is clearer to the recipient. While it doesn’t appear that this is a standard practice in the remote community, a little extra time to shorten the link through tools like bit.ly or by hyperlinking a set of text could really make things easier on your end user.
Take advantage of these tips when you communicate by email, and stay in contact on a regular basis, if not every day, with important clients and team members to maintain a steady line of communication. After all, great communication is the essence of productive and successful remote work.