Email Etiquette Tips

There are many rules when it comes to using emails to effectively communicate in your business with peers or clients. Such as not typing everything in upper case, having a useful signature that includes several ways to contact you to being polite and thankful, etc. From all the rules and protocols that exist in online communications, here are the most important ones everyone should memorize and start using now. 

Answer Swiftly: The golden rule for email is to reply within 24 hours, and preferably within the same working day. If your response email is complicated, just send an email confirming receipt and letting them know that you will get back to them.

Use a meaningful subject line: Try to use a subject that is meaningful to the recipient as well as yourself. It also makes it easier  to search for old emails when the subject line is relevant and specific to the content of the email.

Don’t abuse the “Reply to All”: Only use Reply to All if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message.  Sending off irrelevant or unnecessary replies to  everyone on the list is just annoying and confusing.

Use the Bcc field:  When sending to many people, some people put all the email addresses in the  To: field. There are two drawbacks to doing that: (1) the recipient knows that you have sent the same message to a large number of recipients, and (2) you are publicizing someone else’s email address without their permission. Instead, consider using the Bcc: field. Put your mailing list group name in To: field in their email (leaving the To: field blank may look like spam). If you have Microsoft Outlook and Word you can do a mail merge so each recipient receives their own email, or create a mailing group in your email software if it has that utility.

Don’t leave out the message thread: Include the original mail in your reply, in other words click ‘Reply’, instead of ‘New Mail’. We all receive many emails and we can’t remember each individual email. Leaving the thread may take a fraction longer in download time, but it saves the recipient time looking for the related emails in their inbox.

Read your email before you send it: Treat email like any other official document.  Read it before you send it. Spelling and grammar errors are just as unfortunate in email as anywhere else in your other written communication. Look out for potential misunderstandings, the tone, and inappropriate comments; we use email because it is quick and easy but precisely that quickness may cause more trouble than you bargained for!

Don’t disclose confidential information: Email is just too risky a place to include confidential information. Ask  yourself if you would want the content of your email displayed on a bulletin board. Never make libelous,  sexist or racially discriminating comments in emails, even as a joke. Consider implementing a Disclaimer on the bottom of all corporate emails with statements on Breach of Confidentiality, Virus Liability, etc.

Avoid Abbreviations/ Acronyms & emoticons: Be careful using email abbreviations such as BTW (by the way) and LOL (laugh out loud) in business emails. The same goes for emoticons, such as the smiley :-). A lot of  people don’t know what they mean, so it’s better to drop them.

Don’t attach unnecessary files: wherever possible try to compress attachments and only send attachments when they are productive. Make sure you have good virus software in place to scan your outgoing emails – a customer would not be happy if you send them documents riddled with viruses!

Be concise:  Do not make an email longer than it needs to be. Email is harder to read than printed communications.  A long email can be very discouraging and can be abandoned before the recipient gets to your final point all the way down at the bottom.  If it has to be long, consider including a synopsis at the top of the email.

Use the proper structure & layout:  Reading from a screen is more difficult than reading from paper so the structure and layout is very important for email messages. Make your paragraphs short and use blank lines between each paragraph. When making points, number them or separate each point with blank lines to keep the overview.

Do not write in CAPITALS: IF YOU WRITE IN CAPITALS IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING!! :This can be highly annoying, difficult to read and might trigger an unwanted response in the form of a  flame mail (you get yelled back at!). Therefore, try not to send email text in capitals.

Do not request delivery and read receipts: This will almost always annoy your recipient before he or she has even read your message. Besides, it usually does not work anyway since the recipient could have blocked that function, or his/her software might not support it, so what is the use of using it? If you want to know whether an email was received it is better to ask the recipient to let you know that it was received.

Do not recall a message: Chances are that your message has already been read. A recall request just looks silly then. It is better to send an email saying you have made a mistake. This will look much more honest than trying to recall a message.

Do not copy a message or attachment without permission: do not copy a message or  attachment belonging to another user without permission of the originator; you might infringe on  copyright laws.

Avoid long sentences: as mentioned earlier, email is harder to read than printed material. People don’t give email the same brain power as they do when reading for example a letter.  Try to keep  your sentences to no more than 15-20 words.

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