Email Etiquette Tips Every Professional Should Know
The advent of email has transformed the way we communicate, both personally and professionally. It’s an integral part of our daily routines, but its very convenience can be a trap, with clarity issues, off-the-cuff messages and sloppy diction coming back to haunt us.
We looked into the things that are most likely to trip people up, and offer our best advice on how to avoid committing a professional faux pas.
Keep it professional and fitting
This should be a no-brainer, but often the very convenience of email makes us forget that it’s still a tool for business communication. Be cautious with humour in emails, as it can easily get lost in translation. At times, maintaining professionalism will entail asking yourself, “Is this suitable for email at all?” For important conversations that require a human approach, pick up the phone for a private chat, book in a Skype call or meet with someone in person, if possible.
Refine your email attention to detail
One small mistake in your email can completely change how it is received. Did you write ‘defiantly’ instead of ‘definitely’? One small mistake like this, and the message of your email can be completely lost. Proof read everything, no matter how mundane you may think the email is.
Add the recipients email address last to ensure you don’t send the email prematurely, and importantly, consider the ‘Reply’ vs ‘Reply As’ suitability for each email.
CC vs BCC
When you’re sending out a group email, think long and hard about whether you intend for the subject to become an ongoing group conversation. If it’s merely disseminating information to a lot of people, use BCC (blind carbon copy) for all but one recipient. BCC has two advantages – It protects the privacy of each recipient and prevents people from hitting ‘Reply All’ and sending their response to everyone, causing a long email chain that’s bound to annoy more people than it illuminates.
On the other hand, BCC can trap people into believing that they’re the only person receiving an email; an effect that comes with its own set of problems. If, for example, you’re copying your boss into an email sent to a third party, use CC so that the third party knows there are two people seeing the email and can choose to reply to both of those parties and open a general discussion.
Your subject line should be clear, concise and properly punctuated. Don’t write in all caps, ever. Don’t be too vague, but also don’t be too long winded. If you’re sending a simple, informative email, for example letting people know that a meeting has been cancelled, use the subject line to convey the key information. Use this trick with caution, though: some people find it rude.
Salutations and sign-offs
Once you’ve navigated the minefield of ‘Dear’ vs ‘Hi’ and whether to use a first name, surname or something in between, consider your opening line. Stylist recommends avoiding generic openers, such as ‘hope you’re well’, as they can come across as insincere. Find a sincere way to ask about the reader, or skip it altogether.
And what about the sign off? For one, you should have a signature block for work-related communication that includes your full name, title and contact details. But above that, stick to something neutral like ‘Best wishes’ or ‘Regards’.
What do you think?
Do you have any other email etiquette tips to add to this list? Which faux pas stand out to you?
This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Stylist and Fast Company.