In a world where a lot of our communication is digital, email is just another medium through which people can get to know you. The purpose of email might not always be social–after all, it’s a major form of work communication for many of us. However, email is always an opportunity to connect. So why not do so authentically?

Small, authentic touches add up to remind the other person that you are a human being on the other end. Your authenticity, in turn, welcomes the other person to be themselves. That makes for a better connection all around.

No matter what role you are in and no matter who you’re talking to, authentic email communication provides aids connection, understanding, and–in turn–things like loyalty and working together more effectively. 

Authentic communication and email etiquette 

Here are three types of small touches that make for authentic email communication (while maintaining email etiquette).

1. Personality

Many rules from the earlier days of email communication are now outdated–especially those that mask your persona in the name of professionalism. Your emails don’t have to be dry, and they don’t have to lack personality. You can and should let your real self shine through, in order to be an authentic email communicator.

In your communication via email, Slack, etc., don’t be afraid to add your personal voice. This can look a lot of different ways, but let’s use emojis as an example. According to research by Adobe, 90% of emoji users feel that emojis help them express themselves, where 89% feel that emojis make communication easier despite language barriers. 88% say that they’re more likely to empathize with others when they use emojis, and 81% say that they perceive people who use emojis as more approachable.

That’s not to say that you have to use emojis or that this is the only way to express yourself. Emojis are only one way to add your personal flair to an email, and of course, they have their time and place. However, what we can take from statistics on emoji use is that adding a personal touch, communicating emotion, and making yourself more relatable all really make a difference in our connections with others.

You might add an extra exclamation mark to show excitement. Alternatively, you could use a quirky synonym for a word you’re including (think “salutations” instead of “greetings”; or “the goods” instead of “the deliverables”).

Or, for an easy tip that doesn’t take extensive effort, you might add an email signature with a personalized warm tone, rather than using a generic signoff. All of these small gestures add authentic personality to your emails. 

One note of caution: the amount of personality you include depends on the difference in authority between you and the other person. If you’re a student talking to a college professor or an employee talking to a manager, don’t hide your unique style, but also don’t let it steal the show.

2. Openness 

There are times when you might have to open up about something personal in the workplace. You might have to be honest about something you’d rather hide. For example, you might need to ask for something due to a mental health need. However, openness and honesty can also mean freely giving information about yourself that might help you bond with the other person.

Openness in email communication can look like showing genuine care for other people or adding bits and pieces of your own life when it’s appropriate.

This absolutely doesn’t mean crossing your own boundaries, and it doesn’t mean sharing things that you’re not comfortable with. Instead, this can look like adding a genuine, “how are you doing?” as a part of your email to someone else. Similarly, if someone asks how you’re doing in an email, instead of just saying “fine,” you might say, “Great! I got to spend the weekend with my son.” Or something that’s relevant to your own life.

3. Kindness 

Kindness is crucial. Intentional kindness helps keep the other person from misinterpreting the tone of your email–it removes what may sometimes be reasonable doubt from the equation.

As a standard rule, a warm greeting and signoff not only make your emails personable and genuine, but they leave the person on the other side feeling good.

Additionally, if you have a compliment to give that is appropriate, don’t hesitate to give it! For example, if you loved a coworker’s article or presentation, don’t hesitate to share that them.

Build a working relationship, and be good to other people. You don’t have to overstep, and you don’t have to be excessive. This isn’t about adding extra work or extra stress. It’s about the general tone, which is typically best received if it’s warm or personable rather than cold or dry.

Remember that there’s a person on the other end of your email. You don’t have to be a robot to be professional. It can be as simple as adding enthusiasm in your punctuation or a heartfelt signoff, like “warmly,” or “warm regards,” followed by your name. 

Authentic communication means you don’t have to be perfect

If you struggle with perfectionism, you aren’t alone. This can sometimes lead to an additional challenge: you may put off email communication until you figure out the perfect way to say something. That makes email take up more mental space than it needs to. 

Good news: abandoning the pursuit of perfection can actually help you be a more authentic email communicator.

Here are a couple of things to remember so that you can rip the bandaid off and send that email!

  • If circumstances are keeping you from perfection, note what’s going on: “I’m a bit crunched on time, so I will keep this email brief. However, I am here if you have questions!” 
  • It’s sometimes better to send a very bare-bones, basic email if that’s all you need. Especially if you have an ongoing working relationship and this isn’t a first impression, it’s perfectly okay if some of your emails simply entail a greeting, well wishes, and “Attached is the requested assignment. Please let me know if you need anything else on my end.” 
  • If worries are keeping you from emailing someone, it’s ok to share those worries: “I’m concerned I’ve misunderstood your request, but I am eager to deliver on what you need. Here is what I have so far.”
  • You’re human. If you do make a typo, write a shorter email than what you’d typically prefer, or something else, it is okay. You don’t have to rush to correct yourself, but you can always note any missteps for your own peace of mind.

Bring your most authentic self to email communication

Add personality where appropriate, don’t hesitate to be kind, and also remember that even if you are the most stellar and personable email communicator, you might have coworkers who aren’t. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like you or that they don’t have other strengths.

We all have different strengths. However, if you can show some authenticity and warmth in your email communication, you’re doing something special for those you interact with.