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27 Email Etiquette Tips for Professionals

27 Email Etiquette Tips for Professionals

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!

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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.

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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?

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Professional Fonts to Use

  • Times New Roman
  • Georgia
  • Veranda
  • Arial
  • Book Antiqua
  • Calibri

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.

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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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Published on December 13, 2018

How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

If you’ve ever thought about starting and running your own business, you’re not alone. Being your own boss, having flexibility with your schedule and keeping more of the financial rewards that come with business ownership are all good reasons to own your own company.

But as you might expect, it’s not all vacations and fat bank accounts. According to the SBA, 2/3 of businesses survive at least 2 years and approximately 50% survive 5 years.[1] So why is the failure rate so high? At least for the businesses that fail early on, lack of, or poor planning can be a major factor.

So how to start a company?

Starting a business from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, but it does take planning and work. Here are the first and most important 9 steps to take when your are starting a company from scratch.

1. Do an Honest Evaluation of Yourself

Do you work better in a structured or unstructured environment? Does a daily routine reduce your anxiety? What kinds of things are you good at? Does public speaking or making presentations make you nervous? Are you good at accounting and numbers? Can you handle the rejections you’re bound to get when selling or cold calling?

These are all important questions to ask yourself, in fact it’s a good idea to get other peoples opinion about their perception of you in each of these situations.

Whatever the answers you come up with for your evaluation, remember that’s all it is, an evaluation of where you are now. Think of it as a way to identify both your areas of strength and weaknesses.

You maybe good at public speaking which can help when raising money, but bad at accounting which just means that you’ll need to find some kind of help with that area of the business.

2. Evaluate Your Idea

If your business idea involves a new product or service (or even an enhancement to an existing product or service), it needs to be evaluated. This is technically called market research.

There are firms that specialize in doing market research for new products, but if you are on a tight budget, you can do this yourself.

First, if you can build a prototype for people to use, touch and look at that’s the best option. If a prototype is not possible or it’s a service business, then offer a highly descriptive presentation of the business plan complete with it’s unique benefits and how it’s different from the competition.

Then listen! Remember that this is not about others liking your product, this is not your baby that they are talking about. You want honest market research that gives you the best chance for a successful business. Take notes, when someone tells you that they didn’t like a feature or some aspect of your idea tell them ‘Thank you”.

After several rounds of market research with different groups of people, you should see patterns emerging about things that they both liked and didn’t like. Use this information to tweak your product or service and do another round of market research.

Keep in mind that you’ll never come up with a universally loved product, your job is to produce a product or service that appeals to the broadest range of your target market.

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3. Make a Business Plan

I know, I know this isn’t the “fun” part of starting your own business, but it is an very important step in creating a successful business!

Basically, you can think of a business plan as an outline or blueprint of your business. A good business plan should have the following elements:

  • Executive Summary – This should lay out the businesses product or service and the problem that it solves for the consumer.
  • Market Evaluation – This should talk about the market you are serving. Is it an expanding market, and how does your product better fulfill the consumers in that market.
  • Market Strategies – How are you going to penetrate the market and sell your product.
  • Operational Plan – How will the company run from day to day? Who are the key employees and what are their specific rolls. Do your key players have specific goals set for them in advance?

A final word on making a business plan: while lying is never acceptable especially when you are using the business plan to raise money, it is acceptable to “put your best foot forward”.

Playing up the positives while minimizing the negatives is almost expected in a business plan.

Besides, banks as well as professional investors will both do a more in-depth analysis before investing any money into your idea.

4. Decide on a Business Structure

You have many options here, and discussing them with your accountant or financial adviser is really the only way to know what’s right for you. But just to give you a quick rundown of the types of business entities and their pros and cons we will briefly go through them:

Sole Proprietorship

This is a common way for small businesses to get started.

The pros being:

Relatively low costs to set up (usually a business license and sales tax license).Owners normally do not have to set up a special bank account, they are allowed to use their personal one. Any income earned can be offset by other losses (check with your state!). You as the sole proprietor have complete control over all decision making. 

Finally, sole proprietorship’s are relative easy to dissolve.

The cons of using a sole proprietorship include:

You as the sole proprietor can be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company. Some benefits, such as health insurance premiums, are not directly deductible from business income.

If you need to raise money, you are not allowed to sell an equity stake in the company. In that same vein, hiring key people maybe more difficult because you cannot offer them an equity stake in the company.

Partnership

A partnership is formed when two or more people decide to start a business. Although there is no legal requirement for any documentation to form a partnership, it is my advice that you never enter into a partnership without having a partnership agreement. (Remember, spending $1500 now can save you $150,000 in legal fees later!).

The pros of a partnership include:

Being relatively easy and inexpensive to start. Hiring key employees can be easier as you are allowed to give equity ownership to as many partners as you want.

For tax purposes, partnerships are relative simple as any income is treated as “pass through” meaning that each partner pays tax on their individual portion of the partnerships income (As of this writing, always check with your tax adviser).

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As far as the cons go:

It can be difficult for some general partnerships to raise capitol. Because it is a partnership, the actions of one of the partners can obligate the entire organisation. All profits must be shared according to the partnership agreement regardless of the amount of work done by any single partner.

Some employee benefits may not be able to be deducted on income tax returns.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

This is a very popular business entity for small to medium sized businesses. The reason for this is the cost of set up is not prohibitive and there is a separation between the owners and the company.

The pros of an LLC include:

Limited liability for the partners, unlike sole proprietorship’s and partnerships where the owners are held responsible for all of the companies debts and liabilities, an LLC provides some protection against certain debts and liabilities that are solely the companies.

Simple taxation, just like the sole proprietorship and partnerships, income is considered “pass through” and is only taxed once on an individual level.

There is no limit on the number of shareholders in an LLC. An LLC requires fewer fillings and administrative requirements than a corporation.

Corporation

A corporation is much more complex and expensive to set up. And a corporation is legally considered an independent entity that is separate from its owners.

The pros of a corporation include:

Complete separation between the owners and the company. Because the corporation is considered its own legal entity, owners can not be held personally responsible for any debts or liabilities of the company.

A corporation can raise capital much easier just by selling more shares in the company.

Cons of corporations include:

Much higher administrative costs than any other business entity. Corporations generally have a higher tax rate. Dividends are not tax deductible for corporations. Income paid in dividends is taxed twice, once by the corporation and again by the shareholder.

Again, this is just a short summary of the pros and cons, always check with your tax adviser about what will work best in your situation.

5. Address Finances

Again, not one of the “Sexier” parts of starting your business from scratch, but very important nonetheless.

So, you’ve done your business plan and an estimate of your start up funding should be included. It should include the amount of funding you’ll need to get you through your first full year of operations.

Now, how do you get that money?

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Self Funding

If possible, self funding is the easiest. You won’t have to go to banks and investors with hat in hand, or give up ownership or control of your company. But as we know, this is not a reality for most people. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of options available.

Friends and Family

They can be a good source of funding your business if they can see and understand your vision.

Remember that business plan? Pass them out to everyone you know. Then follow up, be prepared to tell them the total amount of money you expect to raise, the minimum investment you are looking for and what you will give in return for the investment.

For example, you give a friend your business plan and follow up with him/her a few days later. You can explain that you have secured funding for $80,000 of the $100,000 you need. You are selling a 2% share in the company for every $2,000 investment. How many shares would he like?

And when he/she tells you no, thank him/her and ask if he/she can think of anyone off the top of his head who might be interested? Tell him/her you really appreciate his/her time and if he/she does come across someone who might be interested to let you know.

Banks

These guys are happy to lend you money when you don’t need it, but all of the sudden they get stingy when you actually need a loan! This is where preparation comes in.

It’s a good idea to go over your business plan with an expert and maybe even have it rewritten by an expert before you approach either a bank or professional investor. Both will want to go over your business plan with a fine tooth comb, verifying all the numbers and data you provide.

You should also brush up on everything in the plan so that you can answer any questions they have with authority.

Crowdfunding

Finally, there is crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Crowdfunding helps to build interest, community spirit, and a customer base. It’s also an efficient way to raise funds. You can take a look at these tips to find out more:

6 Crowdfunding Tips To Get Your Project 100 Percent Funded

6. Register with the Government

As stated earlier, different types of business entities have different filling and administrative requirements. At the very least, you’ll probably need a business license as well as a state sales tax license.

Unless you are forming a corporation, there are many good resources on the web that will do everything for you at a minimal cost.

7. Assemble Your Team

Remember when we evaluated your strengths and weaknesses? Here is where we fill in the gaps!

Do you hate sales and cold calling? Great! There are people who love selling and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

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Bored to death with accounting? There are a ton of small accounting firms out there that will take care of that for you.

What about marketing? You can hire someone in-house or out-source that too.

Your job is to keep on top of all the different aspects of the business to make sure they are all running smoothly and getting the results you need. If not, it’s your job to figure out the problem and implement a solution.

Check out this guide and learn how to delegate effectively:

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

8. Buy Insurance

No matter what kind of business you start, you need insurance! Yes, I know, no one likes to buy insurance, but it can literally be the difference between having a minor inconvenience and declaring bankruptcy.

We live in a very litigious time, even a minor slip and fall at your place of business could bankrupt you without insurance. If you need help finding a good agent, check with your local trade organizations or fellow business owners.

9. Start Branding Yourself

Has anyone ever ask you for a Kleenex or a QTip? We all know what they are because of branding, Kleenex is just a brand of tissue and QTip is just a brand of cotton swab. It doesn’t have to be as widely known as Kleenex or QTip, but you can make your brand a common name within your niche.

I once owned a manufacturing company that developed a product that was so popular that my competitors started co-opting my brand name for their products.

If you aren’t sure how to kickstart branding yourself, check out these ways:

5 Ways to Build your Personal Brand & Make More Money

The Bottom Line

Starting a business from scratch can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.

But do you know what’s even more rewarding? Having a business that succeeds, is profitable and provides a good source of income for you, your employees and their family’s.

More Resources About Entrepreneurship

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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