What is email etiquette?
Email etiquette refers to the rules and best practices for composing, sending, and responding to professional emails. These guidelines help ensure our email communications are clear, concise, and respectful.
Top 15 rules of email etiquette
Let's expand on how any employee, regardless of his writing skills, can ensure that his messages are polite, straightforward, and professional:
1. Use a clear and concise subject line
Make sure the subject line accurately reflects the content of your email. If your communication has a deadline/milestone/date mention it. Also, don't write a long title, as your contact might read his message on a smartphone, and only the first 3-4 words will be seen.
Tip: Keep it specific and easy to understand.
Example: Budget Review Meeting - July 12th
2. Address the recipient with an appropriate salutation
Use a professional greeting, such as "Dear [Name]" or "Hello [Name]." If you're unsure about your correspondent, write Dear customer support, Dear team manager, Dear HR Leader, or Dear Sir/Madam. Also, think about the formal and informal ways to greet. Usually, with people you know, you go for informal salutations, while when someone with whom you connect for the first time is polite, go for the formal opening.
Tip: Avoid overly casual greetings or colloquialisms.
- Dear Jane,
- Dear Mr Lane
- To whom it might concern
Related: Find additional salutations to help you start your emails professionally.
3. Keep your emails brief and focused
Stick to the main point and avoid including irrelevant information. Do not explain unnecessary details or information that has already been shared again. If the message you want to convey is too long, maybe it would be a good idea to call your recipient or schedule a video call.
Tip: Use bullet points or numbered lists for clarity.
The main objectives for the meeting are:
- Review Q2 financials
- Discuss upcoming projects
- Bottlenecks and other news.
4. Use proper grammar and spelling
Always proofread your emails for errors before sending them. The advances of Gmail and Office 365 help us with spelling errors or typos; however, make sure that:
- you don't have words written twice,
- you don't say in two sentences the same thing,
- use the correct grammar words according to the correct situation(examples: Your & You're or They're, Their & There, Alot, Allot & A lot)
- you don't use abbreviations such as TYT, as the receiver might not know what it means (tip: It's Take Your Time).
Tip: Use a spell checker or grammar tool if needed. We do like Grammarly.
Example: "I look forward to our meeting on July 12th" instead of "I look forward to our meeting on July 12".
5. Reply promptly
Respond to emails promptly, ideally within 24 hours. If you don't have an immediate answer, write back to your sender and mention that you have received the email; however, you need more time to have the correct answer.
- Set aside specific times during the day to check and respond to emails.
- If the answer takes two or fewer minutes to solve, then reply immediately.
Example: Respond to urgent emails immediately and non-urgent emails within one business day.
Related: How to respond to an email professionally?
6. Maintain a professional tone
Keep your tone respectful, courteous, and professional. Emails are electronic messages that will not be read instantly. If you are maybe angry for some personal reasons, you don't need to write with an angry tone or be too emotional about your situation. It is an excellent practice to be objective, keeping business and personal life separated from your email professional communication.
Tip: Avoid using slang, jargon, or overly casual language.
Example: "I appreciate your assistance with this project" instead of "Thanks a ton for helping out!"
7. Use an appropriate email signature
Include your name, title, and contact information in a professional email signature. Especially when writing to someone new, that person should provide clear contact details, including the role and company. Sometimes, just calling the person is easier than writing a message and even clearer, so a phone number is good. And rather than using your Gmail address, maybe it's good to write from your company email to show professionalism.
Tip: Keep it simple and avoid excessive images or quotes.
8. Don't use all caps or excessive punctuation
Writing in all caps or using too many exclamation points can be aggressive or unprofessional. We don't recommend using all caps within the subject line also. If you want to emphasize a particular item in the email, make it bold, or start the first line of your email with it, and reiterate in the closing your call to action.
Tip: Use proper sentence case and punctuation.
Example: "We need to address this issue immediately" instead of "WE NEED TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE NOW!!!"
9. Be mindful of attachments
Only send necessary attachments and ensure they are virus-free. Ok, you need to send an invoice to a client, a doctor's note for your sick leave absence to your manager, or a resume to your potential employer, and this is great; however, if you have multiple files or files that are larger than 10MB, than we do recommend using services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. They ensure that large files or even folders can be shared easily, and you can also have multiple versions or even collaborate on the files shared (think about a project proposal or a project plan).
Tip: Compress large files and use a file-sharing service if needed.
Example: "I've attached the project proposal as a PDF for your review."
10. Avoid using "Reply All" unnecessarily
Only use "Reply Al" if everyone on the email thread needs to see your response. Especially within large teams working within the knowledge economy, when emails are sent to inform coworkers about a specific issue, opportunity, or internal affairs, a manager sends a note, an invitation, or a presentation to all colleagues or only a selected few. If you have some feedback about it, think twice if your input is relevant to everyone or only to the sender. If you receive an email invite for the team meeting, if you arrive 15 minutes later, you don't have to let everyone know, only the organizer.
Tip: Consider if your response is relevant to all recipients before hitting "Reply All."
Example: Respond directly to the sender if your response only pertains to them.
11. Respect the privacy of others
Don't share sensitive or confidential information without permission. This one is straightforward. Confidential business information like clients' personal information, internal procedure manuals, contracts, and financial statements should not be shared widely.
Tip: Use encryption or password protection for sensitive documents.
Example: "I've password-protected the attached financial report for added security."
12. Acknowledge emails
Let the sender know you've received their email, even if you can't provide a full response immediately. Let's say you're the customer support representative at a mid-size advertising company. If your client sends you some questions, you can reply a few minutes after you receive the email, mentioning that his request is being taken care of, and you will follow up with a proper solution the next day. In this way, the client feels respected that his request is being considered, and you did provide some initial feedback and will follow up so that this ticket gets resolved.
Tip: Send a brief acknowledgment if you need more time to gather information.
Example: "I've received your email and will respond with more information by the end of the day."
13. Use proper formatting
Use paragraphs, headings, and bullet points to make your emails easy to read. Break up large blocks of text for better readability. Which case is easier to read? A. an enormous paragraph with 30 lines, or B. 6 paragraphs of 5 lines each, 3 of them have bullet points, and start with headlines for easy reading in diagonal. If you also add a diagram or chart to mark your point, it's even better.
- If you add URLs, hyperlink them so they are clickable.
- Use bullet points to list project tasks or action items.
Thanks for providing me with the draft blog post. Here are my key remarks:
- the introduction needs a bit of rework, an attention grabber, and a general overview of the article.
- for the sales figures, make a chart with the quarter-over-quarter growth
- add one paragraph about the new product we're releasing this autumn
- my additional copywriting edits directly in the document.
Please check them out and return me with an updated version by Tuesday morning.
Related: What is the formal email format?
14. Consider cultural differences
Be aware of cultural norms and practices when communicating with colleagues or clients from different backgrounds.
Tip: Research cultural etiquette and communication styles to avoid misunderstandings.
Example: Avoid using idioms or slang that may not translate well across cultures.
15. Double-check your recipients
Ensure you're emailing the correct person or group. Have you ever felt tired and still had to reply to some emails so that you could leave work with inbox 0? Well, you're not the only one. After many hours, our brains work automatically, and more errors in judgment appear.
- Review the "To," "Cc," and "Bcc" fields before hitting "Send."
- A good rule of thumb is to write your subject and email, then fill in the to field. In this way, you ensure that you will not send the email with incomplete data.
- Double-check that you're not accidentally including someone who shouldn't be on the email thread.
- Sending the email to the director instead to your team-mate just because they share the same first name, Daniel.
- Looking for a contact for reference in the cc field to be added to the email body; however, you forgot to remove it from cc.
Top 10 email etiquette mistakes and how to avoid them
Now you know all the rules you must avoid to keep professional etiquette. They are many, we know, and they are fresh in your mind now. Experts say that after many 10000 hours of writing, you will improve your level will go to an expert and don't have to check them, as they will be part of your writing toolkit. Until then, let's also check the most significant mistakes so that you know what you have to avoid when writing essential emails.
- Sending emails to the wrong person: Always double-check your recipients before emailing.
- Using vague subject lines: Use clear and concise subject lines that accurately reflect the content of your email.
- Overusing "Reply All": Consider if your response is relevant to all recipients before hitting "Reply All."
- Not proofreading for errors: Always proofread your emails for grammar and spelling errors before sending.
- Ignoring emails: Respond promptly to emails, even if it's just an acknowledgment that you've received the message.
- Including sensitive information: Be cautious when sharing sensitive or confidential information, and utilize encryption or password protection when necessary.
- Using unprofessional language: Maintain a professional tone and avoid using slang, jargon, or overly casual language.
- Overloading emails with attachments: Only send necessary attachments; consider using a file-sharing service for large files.
- Writing lengthy, unfocused emails: Keep your emails brief and focused on the main point, utilizing proper formatting for better readability.
- Forgetting cultural differences: Be aware of cultural norms and practices when communicating with colleagues or clients from different backgrounds.
Key takeaways on email etiquette:
Email etiquette is essential at work because:
- Enhances professional image
- Ensures effective communication
- Fosters a respectful work environment
- Reduces misunderstandings and miscommunications
- Protects sensitive information
- Increases productivity and efficiency.
Following these email etiquette guidelines can foster a more professional, efficient, and respectful work environment. Thank you for your attention to this important aspect of our daily communication.