Top 20 Email Etiquette Rules
Email is fast, easy and immediate. This makes it a great communication tool, however, as with any human interaction there are a certain set of unwritten rules of etiquette. Not sticking to the basic etiquette of email can lead you into quite a bit of hot water at the office and has the potential to be a career-killer.
People send and receive so many messages a day, many end up making embarrassing mistakes that could be detrimental in a professional interaction. Email presents numerous pitfalls for anyone who is careless, or impulsive. We’ve all heard the stories about a “private” e-mail that ended up being passed around to the entire company, and in some cases, all over the Internet.
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to e-mail etiquette is whether the matter you’re discussing is a public one, or something that should be talked about behind closed doors. The below are our Top 20 rules, when it comes to email etiquette in the office.
Top 20 Email Etiquette Rules
- Address your contact with the appropriate level of formality and make sure you spelled their name correctly.
- Introduce yourself. Do not assume the person receiving your e-mail knows who you are, or remembers meeting you. If you are uncertain whether the recipient recognises your e-mail address or name, include a simple reminder.
- Never e-mail angry. Typing in all caps or in red reflects a shouting/yelling emphasis. Always remember that e-mail correspondence lasts forever. With emotionally charged emails, wait until the next morning to see if you feel the same before clicking “Send”.
- Be mindful when discussing sensitive material. Refrain from discussing confidential information in e-mails such as someone’s salary information or the particulars of a highly-sensitive business deal. Should the e-mail get into the wrong person’s hands, you could face serious/possibly legal repercussions.
- Respond in a timely fashion. Unless you work in some type of emergency capacity, it’s not necessary to be available the instant an e-mail arrives. Depending on the nature of the e-mail and the sender, responding within 24 to 48 hours is acceptable. If you cannot respond to an email promptly, at the very least email back confirming your receipt and when the sender can expect your response.
- Do not send one-liners. “Thanks,” and “Oh, OK” do not advance the conversation in any way.
- Use emoticons sparingly to ensure your tone and intent are clear. Avoid using shortcuts to real words, emoticons, jargon, or slang. This kind of practice in business-related e-mails is not acceptable.
- Be clear in your subject line. With inboxes being clogged by hundreds of e-mails a day, it’s crucial that your subject line gets to the point.
- Don’t allow your mail to be mistaken for Spam. Avoid subject lines that are in all caps, all lower case, and those that include URLs and exclamation marks.
- Never send large attachments without prior approval and never send business attachments outside of business hours. Sending unannounced large attachments can clog the receiver’s inbox and cause other important e-mails to bounce.
- Before you click Reply All or put names on the Cc or Bcc lines, ask yourself if all the recipients need the information in your message. Send or copy others only on a need to know basis.
- You still can’t beat picking up the phone. If a subject has lots of elements that need to be explained or negotiated, don’t handle it via e-mail. Pick up the phone to avoid confusion.
- E-mail should not be used for last minute cancellations of meetings, lunches, interviews, and never for devastating news. If you have an employee or a friend you need to deliver bad news to, the decent thing to do is pick up the phone.
- Don’t overuse the high priority option. If you overuse this feature, few people will take it seriously. A better solution is to use descriptive subject lines that explain exactly what a message is about.
- If you’re sending a message to a group of people and you need to protect the privacy of your list, you should always use “Bcc.”
- Keep it short and get to the point. Nobody has the time or interest to read a long winded mail. Write concisely, with lots of white space, so as to not overwhelm the recipient.
- Always end your emails with “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” “Best regards”
- Always include a signature. You never want someone to have to look up how to get in touch with you. If you’re social media savvy, include all of your social media information in your signature as well.
- Remember your e-mail is a reflection of you. Every e-mail you send adds to, or detracts from your reputation.
- Finally please, please, use your spell check, however, don’t rely on it. Spell checkers miss all kinds of obvious errors
(Director) BBS (Hons), MBPICS – Shannon Office
Joe Robbins is co-founder of CareerWise Recruitment. A graduate of the University of Limerick (Degree in Business Studies, 1985), Joe worked in the UK for five years where he specialised in materials management, production management and plant management for a number of companies.
He returned to Ireland in 1992 to become Operations Manager for a Cork-based start-up, FMC Automotive Division which was subsequently taken over by Snap-on Equipment. Joe managed the business re-location of this company to Shannon in 1997 before setting up CareerWise Recruitment in 1999.
He is a committee member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Mid-West region, and a former Director and Vice President of the Shannon Chamber of Commerce. Joe is former Chairperson of the Sixmilebridge Camogie Club and current Chairperson of the Clare County Camogie Board.