How Much Do You Know About Email Etiquette?

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Email has become part of the corporate landscape. Regardless of whether you prefer face-to-face communication or little-to-no communication at all, email etiquette is necessary in the 21st century. Whether you are looking to launch your career, climb the corporate ladder or conduct a job search, here are 10 tips to help you navigate email in the business world.

Use a professional email address

While most people have multiple email addresses, you should use business or business-like addresses for all professional correspondence. Save your “cheerleaderchick@email.com” account for friends and family and create a professional account to send out resumes and cover letters.

Use proper letter format and language for formal communication

The ease of digital communication has brought a degree of informality not appropriate for the business world. Formal language and formatting conveys and demonstrates seriousness. Of course, not every email you send needs to be formatted formally, but if you are conducting a job search, requesting information from someone you don’t know, or cultivating a new contact, formality never hurts.

  • Make sure you include a formal greeting and closing. Don’t say “hey,” or “hi,” but instead “Good Morning,” or “Hello.”
  • At the end of your email, close with a phrase such as “Best,” “Best Regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Thank you”.

Make emails and responses clean, clear and easy to read

If you want people to take your input, information or opinion seriously, you should take the time to present it well. Here are some specific tips for giving your emails and responses the best shot at being read and acted upon.

  • Use plain, classic black fonts, such as Times New Roman or Ariel. Don’t use anything that looks cartoon-y or could be hard to read.
  • When responding to group messages, copy and paste the specific items you are replying to with your response
  • Be thorough and brief in your responses. “I agree with Keith’s comment about the windows” is succinct but more descriptive than “I agree”
  • Take a moment to clean up forwarded material before forwarding again and explain why you are forwarding
  • Only tackle one topic or subject per email
  • Write a descriptive subject line. Don’t leave the subject line blank.
  • Keep emails short but polite. You don’t want to be so brief that you come across as a robot, but don’t write an essay-length email. If the email looks too long, the person you’re sending it to may not take the time to read it completely.

Avoid humor, irony or sarcasm

The introduction of email and text messages brought a great deal of communication confusion, which ushered in the age of emojis. When we communicate, we understand context by interpreting facial expressions or tone. However, emojis are not appropriate for business communications, so avoid writing things that need to be “explained” with emotional symbolism. Emojis are unprofessional, and also can cause your email to get caught in a spam filter or sent to someone’s junk mailbox.

Compress files and shrink photos before sending

Not only are giant photo files irritating but they also take up a great deal of storage space on a computer, not to mention the additional time they take to download. Also, remember many people will be reading, viewing and downloading on mobile devices. Mobile devices may have limited storage, slower download speeds or data plan restrictions.  Be mindful of the size of the files you are sending.

Always make sure you are emailing the right person

Inadvertent emails cannot only be embarrassing, they can actually be career-enders. Before you hit send on an email, make sure the email is going to the right person. Just imagine accidentally sending an email complaining about a coworker or a client to the wrong person.

While the autofill feature can be very helpful in modern email programs, it can also create a great deal of problems if you inadvertently click on the wrong address. To avoid this, you could:

  • Leave the “to” line blank until you’re done writing the email, and then take the time to double check that you’re sending it to the right person.
  • Fill in your own email address while composing the email, and then change it to the appropriate recipient just before sending. Filling in your own address while composing a difficult email is also a great way to ensure the other person doesn’t inadvertently receive it if you change your mind about sending it.

Avoid “reply all” if at all possible

The more people involved in a group email, the more you should avoid using “reply all.” The majority of employees wade through hundreds of emails a day and no one wants to read 20 or more replies that have nothing to do with them. If it is necessary to respond to a group email, respond only to the initial sender.

Proofread before sending

While the auto-correct feature can sometimes catch mistakes, it can also create them. You can often find errors on paper that you may miss on a screen so consider printing and proofing. Getting another set of eyes to review what you’ve written can help ensure your tone matches your message.

If it is not business related, don’t send it

Save funny memes or inspirational quotes for your friends, not your coworkers; not everyone shares your sense of humor or your worldview. If you feel inspired by a photo of baby chicks, a quote from a religious text, or a picture of an epic wipeout, share it with your close friends and family, not your professional network.

When in doubt, end with “thanks”

Deciding how to close an email can be tricky. While “sincerely” is one of the most common valedictions, it doesn’t always fit the tone of the correspondence. A simple “thanks” is a great way to end almost all emails.

Keep these email tips in mind and remember to be courteous to the people you are sending emails to. Formality and courtesy will serve you well!

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