Even after the advent of social media and improvements in text messaging, email is still the mode of communication that continues to prevail in the professional realm. The ability to give direction, put out fires, and more without being face-to-face has enabled many businesses to use email as a productivity tool. However, there are times when professionalism goes out of the window, and etiquette rules are forgotten. Today, we will take a look at 27 email etiquette tips for business professionals.
1. Greetings and Send-offs
I never start an email with the contents. An email always begins with a sound introduction or with the recipient’s name. This will, in the beginning, let them know to whom they are speaking with. When you begin by acknowledging them by name (e.g. Hello, John Doe), you will let them know whom you intend on talking with. When you are done with an email, always finish by saying “Thanks” or “Cheers”, to practice good etiquette and respect.
2. Know When to Call
Not all communication has to occur through email. Once conversation begins to mention specifics, it may be wise to schedule a phone call—this can prevent misunderstandings and can even expedite your correspondence. It is also respectful to pick up the phone when a meeting, scheduled by email, is cancelled.
3. Mind Your Punctuation
Professionalism involves knowing how to mind your punctuation. In a standard email correspondence, you should use periods and question marks about 95% of the time. Leave exclamation points to when your conversation is light-hearted, and you’re familiar with the recipient.
4. The Clock is Ticking
When dealing with business, never keep them waiting. As the saying goes, “time is money”. You should never let a recipient wait more than two days for your reply. Just like a phone call, waiting on an email can hold up progress on whatever project you are attempting to establish. After all, isn’t that why you’re emailing and not using snail mail?
5. Write it Right
Grammar and spelling should be two considerations when emailing in a professional environment. Even though the content is the star of the email, ensuring that your grammar is in check allows the business acquaintance to know that you are taking the conversation seriously. Most email clients have spelling and grammar checks, so use them!
6. Consider Company Culture
Let’s be honest—while grammar and tone should be professional, we must still consider the companies that we are contacting. Inner business emails between more relaxed companies will of course be a bit different from, let’s say, the White House. While minding your grammar, continue to give off an approachable vibe while emailing.
7. Engineer the Perfect Subject Line
The first thing your recipient sees is the subject line. Frankly, they will discern the importance of an email by a subject line before reading its contents. Make sure you leave a great impression by being mindful of capitalization, being concise, and to the point.
8. Reply vs. Reply-All
Nothing is more embarrassing than sending a mass email that was intended for only one recipient. This is the result of an email that began with multiple recipients. When replying, you will have the option to “Reply”—which emails the sender—or “Reply-All”, which sends your message to everyone the original message was sent to. Double check before sending, or you’ll be sorry.
9. Consider The Privacy of Others
There will be instances when you’ll have to send business emails to multiple recipients who may not know each other. The recipient’s email address is added to the “To:” section in average emails, but in multiple recipient emails, you should add the addresses to the “BCC” or Blind Carbon Copy section, to prevent others from viewing recipient addresses.
10. Tailor a Signature
Unlike a greeting or send-off, an email signature is automatically added to the bottom of a message, where you can add a small biography and contact information. This doesn’t replace a quality greeting, but it does allow a new acquaintance to learn more about you and to know where to get in contact with you.
11. Go in Vacation Mode
Several times a year, during vacation, I usually find myself separated from my email. As seen in tip #4, time is of the essence, and it’s rude to leave an email in your inbox unanswered. To alert individuals of my absence, I add an auto-responder (through Gmail, but also available on other clients) mentioning of why I’m gone and when I will return.
12. Be Mindful of Links
Hackers have found ways to add viruses and malware to attachments and links. When forwarding emails, ensure that the links and attachments are safe. Also, reduce the number of chain messages you forward and never send any from an unknown recipient.
13. Create a TL:DR Summary
TL:DR is an acronym standing for “Too long, didn’t read”. It’s quite blunt and is the case for many busy business acquaintances who simply are too busy to read long email conversations. For this reason, when forwarding or periodically when replying to conversations, summarize previous points in bullets to keep recipients up-to-speed on email contents.
14. Job Search Tip: Resume and Cover Letter
When searching for a job, email etiquette is of the utmost importance. When replying to a job board, always ensure that you include your resume and cover letter. By default, these should be attachments unless they explicitly are against them.
15. Ask Before Attaching
The reason companies don’t like large attachments is because companies are given a specified storage space they pay for. Your large attachment eats up their storage allowance. Before sending a large attachment, or multiple ones, always ask for permission from the recipient.
16. When is Irony Appropriate?
Irony is a popular form of comedy for most people. However, in a business setting, you should shy away from it. Irony in any written form can be misunderstood at best, and at worst be taken as offensive. Save the irony for emails within your company.
17. Rethink Your Font
A company email isn’t a PowerPoint presentation from your sixth grade English project: leave the fancy fonts for another time. Not only does it come off as unprofessional, some companies may not have the email clients that can present such fonts. Besides, who wants to read Edwardian Script font anyway?
Professional Fonts to Use
- Times New Roman
- Book Antiqua
18. Documents Open for All
Obscure file types can prevent companies from being able to open the attachments you send, which can slow down business operations and projects. Leave attachment file types to PDFs, .doc, .txt, or .jpeg. They usually are of a reasonable size and can be opened on most machines and operating systems.
19. Separate Work from Play
It’s not wise to use your company email to send personal messages to friends and relatives. Use your business email for colleagues and business acquaintances only, for two reasons: to maintain the professional nature of your inbox, and to limit wasteful use of email storage space.
20. Ensure Your Email Wasn’t Trashed
If you haven’t heard back from a receiver, chances are that they are busy. Inquiring on whether or not they got your message could make it worse, but there are times when emails are quite pertinent. Wait a week to a week-and-a-half if time allows, and if you still don’t have a reply, call them or dispatch another email.
21. Make Your Intentions Clear
When recipients only have a minute or two to read an email, you should make your message as concise and to the point as possible. Provide an outline in the beginning of the email of what you expect from the recipient before going a bit in depth.
22. Connect Email to Your Phone
To prevent recipients from waiting, connect your business email to your phone to ensure that you are able to reply to them in a timely manner. In the settings of most smart phones, you are able to adjust your signature.
23. Inner Company Acronyms
While acronyms are ill-advised to new acquaintances, creating company acronyms between co-workers can be a clever way to ensure that they understand the importance or intent of the message. Acronyms like “NRN” (No Reply Needed) can allow colleagues to know what messages are urgent and what can wait.
24. Extend What’s in Email
It’s easy to blame forgetting or misunderstanding a meeting request given through an email. Most email clients don’t have alarm systems. This means it’s your responsibility to apply outside the inbox what is relevant (creating calendar alerts for meetings, etc) to be productive.
25. Consider Time Differences
It can be aggravating to request a call or meeting through email and not hear back within a timely manner. It is necessary, however, to ensure that this isn’t due to time zone differences. If you are requesting a call from an Australian acquaintance and you’re in New York, ensure time zone differences are worked out.
26. Check Your Calendar
To prevent unnecessary back and forth emailing, it is wise to be mindful of traditions and holidays in the culture or religion of your recipient. If you are in a country where Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, it may not be wise to schedule a meeting for December 24th when the rest of your location is on business as usual.
27. Inform Employees on Etiquette
It’s fine and dandy to follow all of these email etiquette tips yourself, but if you are the only one following them, it still gives your business a bad image. Share valuable email etiquette tips with your co-workers to ensure the business name is kept sound.
Let us know in the comments below of a moment when your email etiquette left a good impression on the recipient. Also, let us know when email etiquette was tossed out the window, and its outcome.
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