Like texting, email is a tricky means of communication because it deprives you of social cues available during face-to-face conversation, such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expression. The ways you choose to use words, sentence structure, and punctuation marks are important tools. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to miscommunicate. These email best practices will help you mind your manners and get your message across clearly and concisely.
1. Be professional at a glance.
It’s tempting to use fun colors and fonts in your email, especially if you have a creative personality, but don’t go overboard. Sticking to a familiar, easily legible font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Trebuchet MS and a dark, clearly discernible text color like black or navy will make your email look as professional as it sounds. Be kind to your recipients. Consider increasing the font size slightly to make your emails easier to read — but not too big, or the message will be visually overwhelming.
Your email signature should likewise appear professional and straightforward.
2. Fill in the subject line.
Never leave the subject line blank. Clearly and briefly state what the message is regarding; for example, “Quick question about mortgage” or “Available for an open house?”.
3. Use a professional greeting.
“Yo Bob” is only acceptable if you and Bob are close friends or colleagues. Otherwise, greet your clients and fellow professionals more formally. Acceptable greetings include “Dear Bob,” “Dear Mr. Martin,” and “Hello, Barbara Kilgore.”
Greetings to avoid include those that are specific to a time of day, those that are overly formal, and those that refer to the recipient by job title instead of name.
4. Introduce yourself.
If you’re emailing a client for the first time, introduce yourself and remind them of who you are. “My name is Greta Greene, and I’m with Fathom Realty. Your contractor Bob Martin gave me your contact information and told me you were in the market for a real estate agent.”
5. Be mindful of your writing.
As mentioned in the guide on best practices for communicating via text message, punctuation can make or break the meaning and tone of a sentence. Exclamation points are like candy. Use them sparingly. Avoid ellipses. They can denote indecision or uncertainty, but not the end of a sentence. Ending a sentence with an ellipsis is a cop-out.
Another mistake to avoid is writing in all capital letters. IT MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING. Most email programs provide an italicized function, which promotes civility while still making a point.
Speaking of being civil, it’s important to be mindful of your tone when composing an email. If you’re feeling rushed, frustrated, or annoyed, those emotions can easily sneak into your message by influencing your word choices. It may help to imagine you’re communicating the information to someone else, such as a loved one or a respected colleague.
Finally, the importance of proofreading your emails before you send them cannot be overstated. Like it or not, people judge not only your professionalism but also your intelligence by the quality of your written communication, so make it count.
6. Send attachments wisely.
If you’re attaching a file, let your recipients know within the text of the email so it won’t be overlooked. Be considerate and compress your documents or turn them into a zip file so your attachments will take up less space in their inboxes and be easier to open on their computers. Alternatively, upload your documents to a shared location like Google Drive or Dropbox and provide your recipients with an access link. If you include a URL in your message, use a link shortener like TinyURL or turn the URL into a hyperlink to avoid pasting a URL with unsightly length.
7. Reply promptly, but be patient.
Professional etiquette recommends responding to emails within 24 hours, at most. However, if you have sent an email and are waiting for a reply, give the recipient at least a few days to respond; if you haven’t heard from them by then, send a gentle reminder or follow up by phone or text.
8. Use CC and BCC appropriately.
If you’re emailing a group of people, it’s essential to know the difference between CC (carbon copy) and BCC (blind carbon copy). BCC prevents the email addresses of all your recipients from appearing in the header or the To/CC fields of the email; in other words, it prevents your recipients from seeing the email addresses of the other recipients. It would be appropriate to use in a situation where your recipients don’t need or wouldn’t want themselves to be known to others. In contrast, CC would be suitable when there needs to be a transparent record of who received your email.
9. Utilize out-of-office replies.
The last thing you want is to lose clients or potential clients while you’re on vacation because they think you’re impossible to reach. Utilizing the automated reply function will keep your clients informed when you’re unreachable. The subject line of your reply should state clearly “Out of office, [date] to [date]” and the text should explain that the reply is automated and that you will return to the office on the specified date. Also include the name and contact information of someone they can reach in the meantime.
10. No funny stuff.
Often a remark that sounds funny in our heads may come across differently when written. Without added context like body language, facial expression, and tone of voice, sarcastic or otherwise humorous comments can be misinterpreted. It’s best to avoid any kind of humor in professional emails because what’s funny to you may be offensive to someone else.
Bonus tip: Be human.
As a real estate agent, your relationship with your clients is built and strengthened by your warmth and personality, so don’t sacrifice those completely in the name of professionalism. You’re not writing an essay — you’re writing an email to someone who’s trusting you with their past and future homes, a transaction that involves a lot of complicated emotions and a need for human connection.
Watch your punctuation, proofread, and be polite, and you’ll be fine.