10 Rules Of Email Etiquette


Email is how many businesses communicate. It’s fast, easy, and accessible. Plus, email is permanent. If you forgot what you were asked, simply find the last email thread for the answer. Email is also effective at disseminating information among team members. However, there is no way to unsend an email. 

So, before pressing send, make sure you’re using email as an appropriate form of business communication. Business emails should be used to send information that is: 

  • Relevant. Use email when a quick call or face-to-face conversation won’t suffice. Emails should be necessary and relevant to the receiver. 
  • Timely. When time is of essence, email can be the perfect tool. It allows you to send relevant information quickly to everyone on the team. 
  • Content-rich. When file attachments or links to web-based material need to be shared, email is an effective tool to do that. 

How you use email will leave an impression with who you send your messages to, especially if you have yet to meet the recipient in person. Email acts as your first impression. This is especially true for job seekers. Using email inappropriately can put you on the “do not call” list with recruiters and others in your network. 

Whether you’re a small business using email as a marketing or communication tool or a job seeker sending an email inquiry, use appropriate email etiquette to set yourself apart. Here are some Ps and Qs to using email as a business communication tool. 

  1. Avoid all caps, exclamation points, and slang. Email can be a relaxed way of communicating, making it tempting to add a few exclamation points or using all caps for emphasis. Instead, all caps give the impression you’re yelling and too many exclamation points come across as being overly enthusiastic or insincere. Of course, it goes without saying to avoid slang. Included in slang is industry specific jargon unless you’re writing to one of your peers. 
  2. Overuse of bold, underline, and italics void emphasis. While it’s OK to use one form of emphasis, such as bold, avoid using multiple forms of emphasis in a single email. That goes for overusing bold, underline, or italics in a single email. Use emphasis to draw the eye from one point to another. Think of emphasized words as creating their own sentence as the reader scans from one bolded word to the next and so on.
  3. Be respectful with your tone. Stay positive and professional by avoiding negative or accusatory language. Rephrase sentences to deliver the message in a neutral tone.
  4. Be mobile-friendly with short and concise messages. Avoid writing a novel. If you can say it with ten words, see what you can do with five. More than 50% of all emails are misinterpreted, and only 53% are actually read. One third of business professionals check email on their mobile device. That same study showed that seven in ten users will delete emails instantly that don’t display correctly on a phone. 
  5. Be careful when trying to be funny. Humor is subjective. What you might find hilarious, someone else might find incredibly offensive. Remember, email is void of tone, body language, or other non-verbal cues. 
  6. Salutations and closings should be professional and respectful. It’s OK to address your recipient with “good morning, Jane” or “hello.” Avoid being too informal, especially if you’re seeking a job. Always use the recipient’s preferred name. And close respectfully. Proper closings can include “I look forward to hearing from you,” “best,” or “thank you.” 
  7. Create a professional signature. Today, all email messages should include a professional signature. Include relevant contact information including job title, company, website, and phone number. If you’re a job seeker, including a link to your LinkedIn page is a must. When appropriate include links to your business social pages. 
  8. Use succinct subject lines. Keep your subject lines to less than 50 characters, or six to ten words. Be descriptive and to the point: Meeting scheduled 6/4/22 at 4PM, 10 reasons to hire an assistant, or nice meeting you yesterday.  
  9. Respond timely and appropriately. Respond to emails within 24 hours. If your response requires more time, send a quick “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can” or, better yet, “I’ll get back to you by noon tomorrow.” This shows respect for the sender and is always appreciated. 
  10. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Remember, you cannot unsend an email. Don’t make your readers edit your work to understand your message. Double check everything including your message, spelling, grammar, and your signature. Make sure you’ve attached and/or linked and documents noted in your email. The worst is sending a resume without attaching the resume! (We’ve all done it so don’t berate yourself –it’s just a painful lesson in proofing.)

Part of email etiquette is knowing when to respond, how often, and when an unanswered email means “no.” This is especially true for job seekers. Use a three-email approach. The first email includes your resume and cover letter. If you don’t receive a response within a few days, send a short and succinct follow-up and reattach your resume. Crickets? A week to ten days after the initial email, send one more follow-up by forwarding your first email without attachments. The reason that you do not include attachments on the final follow-up is to break through spam filters that filter emails with attachments. 

This same strategy can be applied post-interview. Your first email is used to thank the interviewer for their time and to answer or respond to any issues that were brought up during the interview. A few days later, follow-up with a short one or two sentence email. Ten days after your interview, send one more note thanking them again for their time and asking if they have any follow-up questions for you or need any additional information. If you don’t receive a response to your third inquiry, it’s a “no.”   

Using email can be an effective business communication tool – when used correctly. Following these simple etiquette practices will not only yield better results from your email but will show your customers, clients, and colleagues you’re professional, easy to communicate with, and responsive.



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