Why women should be writing emails like their male colleagues (that means getting rid of exclamation marks and kisses)

Writing emails is an artform, especially in a year where communication with our colleagues has been completely virtual thanks to WFH. For women especially, we can often feel like the way we write emails needs to reflect our manner.

This is why we tend to sign off our emails with a ‘x’ or pepper it with exclamation marks to let the receiver know that we are in! a! friendly! mood! Apologising profusely is our forte, saying ‘sorry’ before we ask the receiver if they can do something that is part of their job.

While I realise those aforementioned examples are sprawling gender generalisations, largely pulled from my own experience, this is why it piqued my interest when I saw the now-viral TikTok video that said women should be writing emails more like their male colleagues.

The video, shared by a user known as Vivien (@vivsmee), has been viewed an impressive 3.9 million times and shows Vivien updating her email style to ‘match’ her male colleagues.

In the clip, she’s writing a faux email to someone named Kevin, changing ‘can you please’ to ‘please’ and ‘I think the data is inconsistent’ to ‘the data is inconsistent’, as well as removing the exclamation mark.

The video, which was posted in February, has received over 6,000 comments with one user saying: “Dude I just started doing this at work and I felt so mean.”

Another added: “I’ve started taking out things like ‘I think’ when I know for sure I’m right. Because I’ve decided I don’t need to soften myself anymore.”

Speaking to career coach Hannah Salton, she said that while everyone has individual differences in the way we write emails, there are some characteristics “typically associated with women” and vice-versa.

“Women tend to be more apologetic, saying sorry for requesting things that are perfectly reasonable to be asking. This could be a reflection of lower confidence, or a representation of women feeling less sure of their professional position and authority,” Salton tells GLAMOUR.

“Women may also feel the need to people please – using smiley faces and kisses to avoid confrontation, and encourage the recipient to not think less of them if they are asking something of them. Both of these examples potentially demonstrate a lack of confidence and the writer worrying about offending the reader.”

Salton says the reason men tend to write shorter, sharper emails (again, this is a complete generalisation) is that stereotypically men tend to worry less about what people think and thus worry less about offending the recipient.

So should women be changing their email styles? “I think it’s less about women needing to be more like men, or vice versa. What’s important here is both genders communicating via email in a clear, concise, and professional way. Without being rude, or overly polite and apologetic,” Salton continues.

She adds that confidence, whichever gender you are, is key when writing emails. Underselling yourself and being overly apologetic could “impact how we are seen more broadly in our career”.

The best way to write an email? “Be clear, concise, say what you mean, and don’t apologise unless it’s genuinely needed. Aim to communicate similarly to how you would in real life. Would you say goodbye to a colleague after a meeting by imploring them to ‘stay safe?’ If not, no need to do this via email.”

Ultimately, it depends on who you’re emailing and the kind of work environment you’re in, too. Emailing your work wife? Kisses are more than appropriate. Emailing your CEO? Maybe not so much. It really is a case-by-case basis, but it’s always a good idea to be confident and leave the apologies at the door.