If you’re writing an email or responding to one, either personally or on behalf of your company, whether to an individual or to a larger group, it is vital that you observe certain email etiquette in order that your email is appropriate in every way, and you avoid awkward, even potentially libelous situations.
To ensure you maintain the right etiquette, please read the following tips.
TIP #1: Be Content Conscious
When writing an email, ask yourself why the content you are about to write should represent you or your company in a different way than alternate forms of communication. As an email it might be shorter form, but tone, grammar and spelling, is just as important.
- To whom are you sending your email?
- What are your objectives for sending the email? What outcomes are you anticipating?
- Is this a transactional or relational message?
- Is anything about your message contentious or controversial – or could it be misconstrued in that way?
- What sort of tone should you take: More friendly? More professional? Both?
- What are the next steps you would like the recipient take, or that you are planning?
Tip #2: Beware Links & File Attachments
- Are you including any links or attaching any files? Make sure they are the right ones and not inappropriate. Make sure the links are live.
- • Ensure you send the right links and files to the right people.
• Remember that some of your recipients will not open attachments.
• Also, that some of them will not like or be able to receive content heavy files.
TIP #3: Be Careful Where You Send A Reply
- When you send an email to someone when it was intended for someone else, it can be touchy. It can also get you into hot water, especially if the content was not supposed to be shared with that individual. This scenario could potentially be made even worse if you use the “Reply to All” feature.
- • Read your email carefully and don’t send it if you’re in doubt.
• Don’t give your opinion to those who may not be interested, worse, those who should not be included in the discussion.
• In most cases replying to the Sender alone is your best course of action.
TIP #4: Be Discrete
- Copying (cc) others in can sometimes lead to trouble. You might make an error and copy someone in who shouldn’t be included. Or maybe they should be included but the content is written in such a way as to not be appropriate to share with them.
- • Know who you want to copy in.
• Make sure including them is appropriate.
• Think about your motives when adding cc addresses.
• Use your discretion.
TIP #5: Don’t Necessarily Turn A ‘Blind Eye’
- It’s appropriate sometimes to blind copy (bcc) others in, especially if you don’t want to expose your friend’s or contact’s email address to strangers by listing them all in the To: field. But make sure when using bcc: that your intentions are proper. To send bcc: copies to others as a way of talking behind someone’s back is inconsiderate.
TIP #6: Talk Out Loud To Yourself
- Never send an email without properly reviewing the content. Read your email out loud to ensure the tone is what you desire.
- • Are you using proper sentence structure?
• First word capitalized with appropriate punctuation?
• In an email multiple instances of !!! or ??? are perceived as rude or condescending.
- If you’re unsure show it to someone else before sending.
TIP #7: Make Your Subject Important
- It should go without saying that you should never send an email without a subject line. It shows you weren’t thinking before you sent it. It may also not get opened because it looks dicey. In addition, when you write your subject line, make sure it sounds important. After all, you do want the recipient to open it!
- • Always include a brief subject line (7 words, give or take, is the rule of thumb).
• The contents of a subject line can get your email flagged as spam – be careful. Avoid certain words like “FREE” or “WIN.” They are instantly flagged.
• Be sure the subject line accurately reflects the content of your message. It’s a CAN-SPAM requirement.
TIP #8: Make Sure It Gets Opened
- There are two reasons why an email will get opened – or not. Reason #1 is related to the sender, i.e., the name and the email address where it came from. Reason #2 is the subject line which will either draw you in, or put you off.
- • Never use a bogus sender name. If it’s from you, say so.
• Make the email address you are sending from welcoming too. JohnP@abcplumbing.com is a lot warmer than firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Use CAPITAL letters in your subject line sparingly. It can be more damaging than good if you do that all the time.
TIP #9: Eliminate Poor Grammar, Spelling & Typos
- Please don’t forget to spell check your email for correct grammar. Some email clients pretend to offer a grammar check. It’s not really. You have to check it yourself. Conversely, every email client has a decent spell checker, so there’s absolutely no excuse for sending an email containing spelling errors or typos.
- • Make proper use of Upper and Lower Case characters. Avoid using caps as it infers a “loud voice.” In addition avoid writing in all lower case letters…if it’s a business email, make it business-like!
• Use correct punctuation. It’s lazy to write without punctuation and difficult to read as well.
TIP #10: Conduct One Final Check
- Last, but not least, now that you are sure that your email content is ready for prime time viewing:
- • Check that the address or addresses in the To: field are those whom you wish to send your reply.
• Be sure your name is reflected properly in the From: field. Jane A. Doe (not jane, jane doe or JANE DOE).
• Type in complete sentences. To type random phrases or cryptic thoughts is not clear communication.
• Never assume the intent of an email. If you are not sure — ask others so you avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
• Just because someone doesn’t ask for a response doesn’t mean you ignore them. Always acknowledge emails from those you know in a timely manner.
• Don’t hesitate to say thank you, how are you, or I appreciate your help…it’s common courtesy.
• Keep emails brief and to the point. Save long conversations for a telephone call.
• Always end your emails with “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” “Take it easy,” “Best regards” – something!
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