If you work in an office or spend 80% of your day communicating through email, you’ll already know how important it is to have proper email etiquette.
Not having gracious email etiquette can lead to poor communications and poor time management. It can also create confusion and let’s not forget — embarrassment.
Not knowing how to send and receive emails can also limit your ability to advance your career if you’re seen as a person who can’t be included in high-level dialogues.
Proper email etiquette is not only a part of day-to-day communications but also a reflection of our soft skills as well; being a team player, pleasant to work with, supportive, courteous and respectful.
This is a pet peeve of mine and it comes up way too often. Thus, I wanted to share my do’s, don’ts, and tips for proper and functional email etiquette.
Get responses, receive confirmations and communicate quicker for a more productive day with these useful tips!
Tip #1 Forward with Care
Do not just forward email and expect the person receiving the email to know what it’s about. Draft a brief intro for emails that you intend to forward. Put the forward email in context so the person reading will understand immediately. Otherwise, you risk creating confusion and wasting time clarifying.
Example: See below for the dates when the client is available and let me know if they work for you.
Tip #2 Plan of Action
Do include some sort of action or next step that you want the recipient to take upon reading your email. The whole purpose of sending the email is to get someone to do something.
Be clear on what that action is. Otherwise, you might not receive the response that you need in order to move the conversation or project forward which means you’re just wasting time.
Example: Please provide your feedback on the attached draft by end of day tomorrow.
Tip #3 Groups Projects
Do not just reply all. Think twice about replying all. Just because you received an email with ten other people in the cc line it doesn’t necessarily mean, you should reply back that way.
A rule of thumb that I follow is that if I need to respond back more than twice — then I turn it into a 1-on-1 conversation. Otherwise, I’m just creating spam for the others who don’t care to be included in a lengthy email chain.
Tip #4 Chain Gangs
Do try to keep within a certain limit on the email chain for one conversation. There are instances when it’s better to have ONE 15-minute conversation rather than a TEN email long chain. Again — multiple emails with no resolution wastes time and can lead to lack of productivity. A quick verbal discussion might be better in getting to the point.
Example conversation intro: I just wanted to give you a quick shout to discuss the email. I figured it would be quicker just to talk it out.
Then follow up with a final email: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me just now. As confirmed, we’ll meet with the client at 3pm and go over the speaking points then.
Tip #5 Kiss Rule
Don’t forget the KISS rule. Keep it short and simple. Writing long emails makes me nervous. Again, if you have to go into a long explanation, ask a bunch of follow up questions or brainstorm multiple ideas — don’t try and get that done in an email chain. Save those tasks for meetings. Use the email to set up the meeting.
I try to keep my emails brief. Anything more than a few sentences triggers me to start seeing what I can delete. Or make a decision as to whether a phone call would be more efficient.
Of course, there are times when a longer email is necessary. But more often than not, on a day-to-day basis, we should try to stick to the KISS rule and keep our emails short, sweet and to the point.
Example: I wanted to pick your brain on a couple of things before the presentation on Monday. Can we meet quickly for 30 min to go over my notes? Let me know if Monday at 1:30pm works for your calendar.
Tip #6 All Eyes On
Don’t be rude in emails. If nothing else and you throw all these tips out the window remember — never be rude in emails. Write like everyone is watching. Write your emails like your mom will one day read them.
Open your emails with a pleasant and professional salutation, show courtesy, get to the point, solve any problems and end with your action.
If you’re feeling disgruntled or unhappy with the recipient — whether your boss, your client or the cable guy — don’t be rude, condescending, passive aggressive or disrespectful. Nothing on the internet goes away. A bad email can come back to bite you ten times over for years to come.
It’s better to walk away from an email for 30 min or so in order to clear your head and get perspective than to respond quickly and rudely out of emotion.
Example: I understand you were running late. Try to give me a heads up next time so that I can let the client know. This way we can move the meeting back.
What are your email etiquette tips?
These tips are what I use in my correspondence each and every single day of my life. Communicating by email is just a way of life. In fact, I probably communicate better by email than I do verbally (but that’s another blog post).
What are your email etiquette tips? I’d be interested to hear what other suggestions or rules I should keep in mind for better business productivity.