email etiquette

The life of entrepreneurs is occupied with emails. They are seen hitting buttons like forward, reply every now and then. A survey says emails occupy the life of professionals for 28% of their workweek. While handling so many emails become difficult, people are often found to answer their emails without giving much attention to email etiquette. These details might sound very petty but in work life, these details reflect you and your organization. Unprofessional mails which include typos, grammatical mistakes, improper subject etc. are looked down upon and are never taken seriously. Even if the topic of conversation is quite serious, wrong email behavior can sabotage your image.

Here are some of the dos and don’ts of email etiquette that each and everyone needs to follow as a social rule which guides any form of communication.

1. Have a clear subject line

With loads of email subscriptions, there are high chances that your matter gets overlooked. There is uncountable number of emails to manage. Also, don’t think that people will open your email just by seeing your name or email id. Have a clear subject line so that they understand the context then and there. Also, make it a bit interesting so that it raises the curiosity of the receiver to see what’s inside. This increases the probability of your email being read by 10 times.

2. Be very formal

Back in school, we were all taught how to frame letters and email etiquette and were also taught that personal emails are different from professional ones. Yes, there is a colossal difference between the two. Personal issues should never be talked about in professional emails. Before hitting the “send” button, be careful and consider if you will put up the same issue on a notice board or not. If the answer is a NO, you need to restructure your email content soon.

3. Give a brief introduction about yourself

Contacts, contacts and contacts! The world of business stands on contacts. So, it is not always possible for people to remember who you are until you are a very close associate. Don’t even expect them to! So, it is crucial that you introduce yourself properly either before starting your mail or while ending it along with your name and designation. This helps to attract the attention of the receiver more effectively. If not mentioned properly, it can become irritating and also they might not contact you back. This is obviously not a wise decision for your business.

4. Keep it brief and to the point

Professional emails are just about conveying the details in brief accurately. People are neither interested in reading essays nor do they have the time to do so. So, keep it brief and don’t overload it with extra information that is not required. For this, make a list of points that you want to include in your mail, prepare it and then proofread it to omit the unnecessary points.

5. Use a professional salutation

Professional salutations matter a lot and must include words like “Hi” and “Hello” only. Using words like “Heya”, “Hey”, “Yo” etc. makes it look very unprofessional which doesn’t go with the matter at all. In case you want to be more formal, use “Dear” and the recipient’s name. Also, mentioning the name of your reader gives a better effect as he/she feels that you know whom you are sending your mail to and giving him/her your personal time.

6. Include all the details clearly

Always remember that you won’t get a lot of chances to grab the attention of your receiver. Once he/she receives an email on a particular topic, he/she is most likely to go by that only. Also, they won’t keep asking you for information that they need. It is completely your responsibility. Hence, never skip crucial points. Include the details very professionally in one-liners to keep the whole thing short and readable.

7. Reply to all the emails

It is always preferable to reply to all the emails that you receive except the ones that say “Don’t reply back”. This shows your interest in the deal or conversation. If you don’t find anything to reply back at the moment, take some time and revert back after sometime. For serious issues and long emails, add your reply to your draft and edit it till you are satisfied. This gives the recipient a clear knowledge that you have received and read their email.

8. Keep your calm while sending emails

Firing an employee or reprimanding someone in an angry mind can cause severe implications. This leads to a rough language which can destroy relationships and bitter follow-ups. Remember, you don’t have the right to put anyone down or tell them anything wrong over an email or even a message. It doesn’t matter if you are the head of the organization or you hold some other position. There are cases when these RUDE mails are even forwarded and are read by people whom the email wasn’t even meant for. Well, I think you can get the hint of what could have been the result!

9. Keep private material confidential

If there is a business deal or maybe some tax information, don’t settle those things over email. This is by far the biggest risk you can take. It is just a click away to share emails and if it comes in the hands of a wrong person, you may even face legal repercussions. Do it either in person or over the phone. Moreover, if you are sending some sensitive data to your clients or executives, take permission from the most relevant sources before sending.

10. Be quick in your response

You should be quick in your response and revert back within the same business day. Remember, it is wise to answer back or send emails in business hours to gain attention. Being quick is good, but don’t have typos or any other kind of errors in your reply.

11. Don’t be humorous

Humor is not translated properly via email. It can never be counted as an email etiquette. They can often be misunderstood if the tone is not clear and it is seldom possible to communicate humor properly in words as it doesn’t express facial motions. It might be taken as a scoff or sarcasm which can create problems. So, it is wise to avoid humor especially if you are dealing with foreign clients who are not well acquainted with your culture.

12. Don’t overuse punctuation

When you are writing a professional email, punctuation should be kept at minimum. The use of maximum number of exclamation marks should not exceed one in the worst case. Never use emotion in emails. Keep them aside for personal messages. This makes you look childish and unprofessional.

13. Be polite, simple and don’t use message signs

Don’t type all the letters in caps. This looks very bossy and rude. Also avoid using jargons and highly superfluous language which might be taken otherwise as show-off. Keep it simple and clean which delivers the actual subject explicitly. Don’t use shortcuts in emails like “gr8”, “TTYL” etc. Also, emoticons are not meant for emails. These look good in messages only.

14. Avoid typos, grammatical errors, “all-caps” etc.

Typos and grammatical errors are the worst mistakes that one can do when it comes to sending professional emails. Once the reader catches your mistakes, he is most likely to press the back button if it is not highly important. And if it is a crucial mail, these errors can throw your reputation into the bin. So, either hire an expert who will correct your mistakes or proofread it several times before mailing it to maintain a proper email etiquette.

15. Never spell names wrongly or use short names

Never shorten somebody’s names or use their pet names until you are given the permission to do so. Moreover, misspelling somebody’s name can disappoint him/her. If you are not sure, just start the conversation with a “Hi” or “Hello” without mentioning any name.  Also, if there are more than one recipient, list their names alphabetically so that nobody feels that you are neglecting them or giving priority to anybody else.

16. Don’t reply in one line

Sending one word replies like “Thank you”, “Your welcome”, “Yes”, “Ok” etc can never help you to keep the conversation going.  This also reflects that you are not interested. Also, if you don’t want a further reply, add “Don’t want a reply” at the top of your email’s content prominently.

17. Provide a sending while sending large attachments

Don’t send very large attachments without the permission of the recipient. This may cause unnecessary trouble to him/her. If you suddenly send such big files, it may result other mails in his/her inbox to clog or bounce. So, always send an email asking for permission with all the other details in mind. You can ask him questions like- “Can I send you an attachment which is big?” or “Can you provide me with a suitable time when I can send you a big file?”  Also, zip your files if they are large or re-sample your images to smaller sizes and resolution if that is not a problem. If you have several files, send them over several emails instead of one to avoid clogging. Make sure that the format in which you are sending your email can be opened from the other side as well.

18. Don’t get mistaken for spam

Using subject lines which includes all the letters in small or caps or having a lot of exclamation can make your mail look like a spam. And if this happens, forget about your email being read. There will be instant deletion and your email will reach the”trash” in no time.

19. Be cautious with “reply-all”

If you have received an email that was also sent to a number of other people including you, and you need to reply to it, be specific to whom you are replying. If by mistake, you press REPLY ALL, that can cause sudden damage. You may not have to send to reply to everyone. And if the issue is sensitive, replying everyone should be strictly avoided.

20. Use CC and BCC properly

The CC(Carbon copy) and BCC(Blind Carbon Copy) tools can become tricky quite often. Yet, they are wonderful and if used wisely can save you a lot of work. Now the question is should you use CC or BCC in your professional emails? If there is someone who needs to be in the conversation or they have got resources and data to add, then CC is the best option. If you are not sure, ask them if you should be CC-ing them or not.

Whereas, BCC allows you to add someone to an email conversation when you are sending the same email to a large number of people and you don’t want others to know whom you have mailed. In simple words, by BCC-ing you send the same mail at one click in a private manner. It can be compared to broadcasting a message. Also, if you are given a task, BCC-ing your client gives him proper knowledge that the task is in progress.

Do you follow all these professional email etiquette ? Let us know by commenting below.

Pratibha Goenka

Passionate about entrepreneurship. Loves to follow her heart. An avid startup analyzer, a voracious reader and an ardent traveler.