Email is widely used in business as a way to share information and collaborate. It’s important to maintain proper etiquette, just as you would when you’re communicating face to face. Our 10 tips for proper business email etiquette will help you polish your email form.
1) Use a clear subject line
Businesspeople have a limited amount of time to handle email during the day. If your subject line has any hint of ambiguity or seems spam-like, at best, your recipient will wait to read it in favor of what initially appears more urgent. At worst, they’ll delete it without reading it. Your subject line should reflect the person, company, project and/or task associated with the email. Many email clients only allow a maximum of 60 to 70 characters. Keep your subject line brief so that it doesn’t get cut off.
2) Think about who really needs to see the content
When team members are working together on a project, it can be helpful to use the Cc function on your email to keep everyone in the loop. Bcc should only be used when you are sending a general, informational email to a group of people, but for which the content applies to all. These recipients usually to not know each other. Also, as a basic guide, any time your recipients exceed 30, you should use the Bcc function as a courtesy. This will save your recipients from having to scroll through the long list.
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3) Get to the point
Again, time in the workplace is precious. Don’t beat around the bush when you compose your email. Avoid filler words that are not necessary to getting your point across. The longer your content is, the more important it is to break it up visually, whether you use clear block paragraphs, bullets or headings. Try not to address more than one subject in each email if you can help it.
4) Keep tabs on your tone
When you communicate in writing, through email, text or social media, you don’t have the advantage of being able to get your intent across with vocal inflections or body language cues. For this reason, it’s imperative that you choose your wording carefully, paying attention to things like capitalization (all caps is translated as shouting) or the use of emoticons (can appear unprofessional if overused).
5) Reply to everything
People make mistakes, and occasionally, you’ll get an email that wasn’t intended for you. When this happens, don’t ignore the message. The sender needs to know that the person he/she meant to send the message to didn’t get the email, especially if the recipient has a limited amount of time to act on the content. A quick “This was sent to me by mistake–thanks!” will suffice. If the email did reach the intended recipient, be courteous and acknowledge by responding to the sender to let them know you received the email and use this time to set an expectation for follow up. Good communication will go a long way toward promoting positive relationships.
6) Remember ownership
Businesses usually consider emails sent by employees to be company property. It is within their rights to retrieve and look at the messages sent from company accounts. Always keep your content professional, assuming that people other than the intended recipient might look at it. Additionally, do your best to send messages only on secured networks so that you keep potentially sensitive data protected on behalf of your business.
7) Be quick, but cautious with the reply button
Be careful not to react to an email. Generally speaking, you should write your response, re-read it a time or two and make any necessary adjustments prior to sending. It may be helpful to allow for a little time to consider your response prior to drafting it. At the same time, once an expectation for a response has been set, it is very important to stand by your word, even if you simply need to send an email acknowledging you owe a response, but need a little more time by setting an adjusted expectation.
8) Avoid fancy fonts, colors or lots of emoticons
Your recipient’s email determines what formats your recipient can view. If you stray into less commonly used formats, the odds that your recipient’s can’t handle part or all of your message goes up. Your recipient might end up looking at a bunch of gibberish. Plain old black and white, emoticon-free messages usually look more professional, as well.
9) Watch the size of your attachments
The larger your file, the more data has to be sent over your recipient’s connection. Depending on what type of connection they have and the rate at which your own internet service provider can deliver the data, very large attachments can take some time to download. They also can interfere with the performance of other online tasks. If you consistently send very large files (these can be common in some industries, such as graphic design), consider a file sharing alternative, such as Dropbox. Share the file there and then your email will be just a quick note to let the recipient know the file is waiting.
10) Be cautious with quotes and threads
An email thread is basically a set of emails between you and your recipient(s). It is organized chronologically in most cases and is useful because it enables you to reference your entire email conversation from a single source. Try to maintain threads when possible, rather than sending out a completely separate email, as this helps both you and your recipient stay organized with the messages.
Email is one of the most common ways of communicating in both personal and business circles. When on the job, these 10 tips for proper business email etiquette will avoid unnecessary resources and give a good, professional impression of you to others.