Since email etiquette varies greatly across cultures, it can be hit and miss if you don’t understand the expectations of the people you are emailing.
Being unaware of the social cues or cultural norms of your recipient puts you at risk of miscommunicating or causing offense.
In some cultures, for example, jumping straight to the point can be considered rude and bad manners, whilst in other cultures, being too chatty and including emojis on an email might well be frowned upon.
Getting your emails right for an American audience is important if you want to make your email exchanges productive.
Below, we’ve listed some 5 useful tips around dos and dont's to help you on your way.
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5 Tips on Using Emails Effectively with U.S. Clients & Colleagues
1. Don't take your time
It’s important to also bear in mind that American culture is very time conscious and time focused.
This means that Americans like to use their time well and that they don’t like to waste it.
In many ways, it also means that Americans tend to have a shorter attention span when it comes to emails.
As such, you’ll find that they like to receive and send emails in a way that’s to the point and efficient.
- Condense your emails so that only pertinent information is included.
- Only cc / bcc in other people if necessary. If individuals don’t need to be included, then you’re likely to irritate them for having ‘wasted their time’. You also risk not getting a response from the people that matter as they may well assume that someone else will answer.
- Americans tend to expect a quick response to emails. As such, even if you’re busy and can’t respond properly, then at the very least you should acknowledge their email and let them know when you’ll be replying.
American culture is heavily influenced by core values such as freedom and independence.
2. Do structure your emails clearly
Americans tend to use emails in a way that is efficient and saves time.
Emails are typically well structured, clear and to the point.
For this reason, you should:
- Keep your emails succinct and that avoid ‘waffle’.
- Structure information using bullet points to make important information easier to digest.
- Ensure actions, deadlines and follow up points are clear and unambiguous.
- Anticipate further questions and answer them in the body of your email as this will improve the efficiency of your email and save time later.
3. Don’t use your email as a way of relationship building
Although you should be polite in your emails, lots of chatty language, emojis and personal information may well be frowned upon.
As mentioned above, time is of the essence and you may well risk irritating people if they are put in a position where they need to respond to superfluous comments.
However, although emails aren’t used as a form of relationship building, you should still use polite language and greetings in your emails.
Most individuals in the USA will start their emails with ‘Dear XXX’ and, if they have already made the acquaintance of someone, then they may well be slightly less formal and start the email with ‘Hi XXX’. They may also say something to the effect of ‘I hope you’re well’ or, ‘I hope you had a nice weekend’, before launching into the body of their email.
To finish their email, they may write something along the lines of, ‘If you need further information then don’t hesitate to let me know’.
All countries and cultures have their quirks.
4. Don't shout!
Avoid putting words in capital letters as this can be perceived as you ‘shouting’ at people.
If you need to highlight information, then put it the start of a bullet point to make it clear, or, maybe make it the subject heading of your email for extra emphasis.
You should also avoid saying anything that might be construed as criticism. For more sensitive subjects, you should discuss them face to face or via telephone if possible.
5. Do be careful - emails can be used to hold you to account
Be careful of what you put in emails as it’s not uncommon for Americans to use emails to hold people to account.
If for example, you say that you will do something by a particular date, and then fail to do so, then don’t be surprised if your American colleague reminds you of your commitment.
Remember that American culture is a time driven culture, which means it’s important to honour any commitments you make.
You should also avoid saying anything in an email that can be misconstrued. Making comments about a colleague for example may well trip you up later if the email is shared.
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These points should go a long way to helping you communicate effectively with your American counterparts.
If you’d like to learn more about American work and business culture, then enrol on our eLearning USA Online Cultural Awareness Course.