EMAIL ETIQUETTE: THE DOs AND DON’Ts

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In a culture where doing biz — and life — online is the norm, the way we share and exchange information, news and ideas can be dizzying.

From anywhere at anytime, we can Skype, phone, SMS, Instant Message, Email or Tweet — the list goes on. And with the proliferation of smart phones, it’s usually our thumbs doing the talking.

We have so many channels (quite literally) at our fingertips, and though email remains the preferred form of communication in the workplace, our constant state of busy-ness means we often disregard etiquette in the name of urgency, brevity and convenience.

To avoid becoming a victim of embarrassing autocorrect fails, lazy language and careless clicks, here are some Dos and Don’ts to consider when it comes to doing email — with manners.

DO

Watch your tone

From salutation to sign-off and everything in between, your email is a reflection of you. If you want to appear competent and professional, be mindful of how you compose your correspondence. Think about who you’re writing to and the language you should use. You wouldn’t “Thank” your Grandmother “In Advance”, so perhaps you shouldn’t farewell that customer or CEO with a xoxo. Use emoticons sparingly — save them for texts to your bestie.

Ditch your address from ‘99

Use your business email for biz-related chit-chat, and your personal address for just that — personal stuff. Oh, and that sk8r_grl hotmail account you created when you were 14? It ain’t so cool anymore.

Be patient

Be mindful of your recipient’s workload and avoid chasing them relentlessly. Depending on the nature of the email, it’s acceptable for you to respond to emails within 24 to 48 hours, so allow the same timeframe for your recipient. If it’s urgent, phone them instead.

Be safe, not sorry

Emails can be forwarded to others with one click. Do you really want to risk HR/your customer/competitor intercepting that controversial email? On a similar note, double and triple check your ‘To’ field.

 

DON’T

Mindlessly CC or Reply All 

CC’ing has become general practice in many work environments, to the point where our inboxes are choking on hundreds of irrelevant emails that waste precious time. A Courtesy Copy is meant as an FYI — so make sure the content is still worth their time.

Do you really need to hit Reply All? No one wants to be part of an email trail that doesn’t concern them, so only send emails on a need-to-know basis

Take shortcuts

While texting is often an excuse to disregard your fine education, email is not. Don’t use emoticons, SMS jargon or acronyms in place of properly punctuated and spelled words. Replying with, “GR8 CU @ the mtg”, has the potential to make you look less than profesh.

And since we’re on the subject of education, don’t make it glaringly obvious you’re typing with your thumbs. Check for typos — a tiny keyboard and auto-correct can be the enemy.

Be a spammer

No sooner do we action an email than another three arrive in its place. This means your clients and colleagues can receive hundreds and hundreds of emails each day. Be mindful of the frequency in which you email people.

Don’t mass email people who haven’t opted into your mailing list and if they choose to unsubscribe, honour that preference.

Lose your cool

One of Alexandra Franzen’s email guidelines for the world is to avoid sending emotionally charged emails. “Do not write emails when you are upset or frustrated. Wait. Cool down. Punch something. Sleep on it. Then channel your inner Dalai Lama and go for it,” she says. 

Write an essay

Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to get lost in 1500 words of verbal vomit. Be clear, be succinct — don’t be cryptic. If you have too much to say, consider setting up a meeting or making a phone call. A five-minute conversation could replace 15 email exchanges over 5 days.

 

What are your pet hates when it comes to sending and receiving email? Do you have any email etiquette tips to add to our list? Share with us in the comments below!

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Articles written by our internal Daily Guru writers, who are certified & qualified growth & development professionals.

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4 Comments

  1. Emma on 28 . 04 . 2015 at 12:34 pm

    My biggest pet hate when it comes to emails… when people put full questions, demands or essentially the body of the email in the subject line!! >:(
    The subject line is meant as a snapshot to give the receiver an idea of what is in the email, it is not meant to be used as the body or as a way of quickly chatting. It’s rude and generally leads to my delaying the response as I find my inner Dalai Lama!

  2. kes on 24 . 05 . 2015 at 6:49 pm

    When the content has no flow. Such as jumping topics without stating what they actually mean or need to be actioned!! Expecting the reciever to interpret it!! Finding my inner dalai lama from this & won’t waste my time anymore!

  3. Terry Murphy on 9 . 06 . 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Well done, great article…stating what so many probably don’t want to hear. 🙂 (Appropriate use of emoticon…I hope)

    My pet hate is people who don’t read the whole business email. If I say at the outset “I have 3 questions” and then number each one…and then get a response to the first one only.

    I also agree there is a fine line between writing an essay and being cryptic in order to save words. Re-read and look for clarity.

    –Terry

    • The Daily Guru Team on 11 . 06 . 2015 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks Terry- they are really great points!

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