A Microsoft manager answers your most annoying email questions

Even though it seems like the far-more-casual Slack, Teams, Skype, and other workplace-chat programs are the new stars of interoffice communication, the fact is that email is never going away. According to a recent Adobe consumer study, we’re spending an average of 3.1 hours a day checking our work email.

In an office landscape where our communication is increasingly electronic – between email and chat – Microsoft’s senior product marketing manager Gabriel Valdez Malpartida reminded Ladders that email still matters and gave some etiquette tips.

Below, he shared his best tips with Ladders.

Tip #1: In business, the greeting and the sign-off still matter

Is it best to use the person’s name after the greeting? (“Hi, Bill…”) Or does that depend on seniority? What’s the best way to sign off with coworkers you email every day? Do you need to sign off at all? What about with your boss, or business contacts?

Valdez Malpartida saysPlay it safe. Addressing each email to the person to whom you are speaking to is important to how you craft your message. While you may feel comfortable addressing your colleague with “hey” via email and leaving off a sign-off phrase, I generally advise my team to address more senior-level colleagues with a “hi” or “hello” and sign off professionally such as “best” or “thanks”. I find leaning more professional in tone is always better rather than being casual in emails.

Pro Tip: You are likely communicating with others in different time zones. Providing your location or typical working hours allows in your signature, it makes it easier for your team and others to understand the best way to reach you.

Tip #2: Don’t fall back on stock phrases when following up; they can grate

When you’re following up with a colleague, it’s hard not to sound annoying. Do you have any examples of phrases not to use? 

Valdez Malpartida says: According to a recent study, people are regularly frustrated by passive-aggressive lines including, “not sure if you saw my last email…” and “per my last email…”. Choose to use softer verbiage such as, “resurfacing the attached…” or “circling back on the below” to avoid insulting those with whom you work.

Tip #3: Schedule your emails

I’m working on the weekend, but I don’t want to hit “send” for fear of stressing out my colleagues. Should I save them for Monday morning? 

Valdez Malpartida says: Sending emails after work hours can cause anxiety and stress for your colleagues. While you may need to work over the weekend, scheduling to deliver your mail during office hours can avoid any angst with your co-workers if sent in the evening.

Tip #4: Read your email aloud to check for tone

Are exclamation marks ever appropriate in a business email? I ask because some people use them to “soften” their tone. What’s a way to soften the tone without using those of smiley faces?

Valdez Malpartida saysHow often one uses exclamation points is definitely a point of personal preference. I like to read my email aloud to determine how to best reflect what I want to say. If what you have written sounds harsh to you, it will likely sound harsh to your recipient.

Tip #5: Let people find you

I have trouble staying in touch when I’m out of the office. What’s the best way to let people contact me?

Valdez Malpartida says: Make it easy for people to contact you to connect and collaborate. Start by providing your contact information in your signature, or at least in your first correspondence. Include ways to be reached outside of emails, such as Teams (a hub for teamwork that brings together chat, meetings, calling, and file collaboration into one app), text, phone number, typical working hours (which is helpful for colleagues who work across time zones), and other important information.