I think we can all agree that email is the WORST. It never ends – in fact, one study found that US employees spend a quarter of the workweek combing through emails. A quarter! Let’s all follow these unwritten rules of email etiquette so that the people receiving our emails don’t want to scream at the screen.
EMAIL ETIQUETTE DO’S
Do have a clear and direct subject line.
Give the recipient a reason to open your email. For example: “Suggestions for project proposal,” “Quick question about today’s presentation,” or “New meeting date.”
Do get to the point.
Try to keep your emails short and sweet. In the first few lines, explain why you’re emailing and what you need from the other person. Then, include the relevant deets.
Do use bullet points and short paragraphs.
This will make your email scannable and more likely to be read.
Do use a professional opening.
These are some good ones:
- Hi/hello/dear [name]
- Good morning/afternoon/evening [name]
- Greetings [name] – often used in the international arena
Email chains are conversations, so after the first reply you don’t have to type that again.
Do introduce yourself.
If you’re emailing someone for the first time, briefly intro yourself. No need to write your life story – just mention your full name, position, and any connection to the other person (e.g. if you met at a PR event, remind them of that).
Do proofread your message.
People are judgy. If your email is full of misspelled words and grammatical errors, you’ll come across as careless and sloppy. It takes a minute to read over what you wrote, and spellcheck does half the work!
Do double-check the correct spelling of names.
My name is Katia, but I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten that are addressed to Katie. They usually end up in the trash.
Do set up a system for remembering contacts.
Do you meet a lot of people in your line of work? If you’re an event planner, sales rep or journo, you definitely do. When you meet someone, add their email to your address book with a note about how you met and what you talked about.
Do reply to emails within 24 hours if you can.
During the workweek, it’s common courtesy to reply to emails in 1-2 days. If you don’t have an answer yet, hit reply and let the person know you’re working on it and will get back them in X amount of time.
Do let the sender know if their email was sent to the wrong person.
Because if it was the other way around, you’d want to know.
Do check your attachments.
Do think about your sign-off.
If you read our blog about passive-aggressive emails, you’ll know the sending says it all! When in doubt, “Thank you” or “Cheers” is fine.
Do use a professional email address.
Job hunting? It’s time to update the firstname.lastname@example.org email address you made up in year 7. Your email address should include your name, so the recipient knows who’s emailing, and hardly any symbols/numbers.
Do keep private information private.
Email is public, hackable, and very easy to forward. So, don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see. If you have sensitive or confidential info to share, it may be better to mail it or pick up the phone.
Do use humour and sarcasm carefully.
You might think you’re bloody hilarious, but you may end up confusing or offending the other person. Unless you know the recipient really well, you’re better off saving the funny stuff for face-to-face chats.
Do let the person know if a reply isn’t needed.
End the email cycle (!) by closing with “Thank you again,” or “See you at the meeting on Thursday.”
Do tailor your email to the culture.
Maybe you work for a global company. Maybe you have clients all around the world. To avoid miscommunication, learn a little about the culture of the country your recipient lives in. For example, people from ‘low-context’ cultures (e.g. American and German) like to get down to business ASAP, while those from ‘high-context’ cultures (e.g. Chinese and Japanese) want to get to know you before working with you.
EMAIL ETIQUETTE DON’TS
Don’t say “Happy Monday!”
It doesn’t matter how much you love your job. You’ll be seen as a twat.
Don’t say “Happy Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday!” either.
We’re all chugging along, so please don’t remind us that it’s only Tuesday.
Don’t leave a subject line blank.
It’s lazy. On that note, avoid “FYI,” “Hi” or other subject lines that don’t tell the reader what’s in the body of the email.
Don’t abuse the ‘urgent’ subject line.
Remember the boy who cried wolf? If you say that everything’s ‘urgent,’ nobody will believe you when you do send a critical email.
Don’t open up with “Hi,”
This is like replying to a text with “K.” It’s abrupt and kinda rude.
Don’t send an email when a quick phone call will do.
15 rounds of emails or a 5-minute phone call? I’m already dialling.
Don’t send an angry or emotional email straight away.
Feel free to write the email – but put it in your drafts folder and open it when you’re feeling calmer.
Don’t email negative news if you can help it.
Email is a pretty impersonal form of communication. If you made a mistake, decided to hire someone else or your client pulled out of the deal, pick up the phone. If you have to relay bad news via email, do your best to be objective.
Don’t shorten the recipient’s name without asking.
Unless that person has told you they go by a nickname, don’t give them one. Maybe Jennifer hates when people call her “Jen.” Who knows?
Don’t copy people on an email unless you have a good reason.
Our inboxes are clogged enough as it is, without being looped into emails we don’t care about. Ask yourself, “Does [name] need to know about this?” If the answer’s no, cut them out.
Don’t hit “reply all” unless everyone on the list needs to receive the email.
Thanks to pop-up messages and phone notifications, it’s hard to ignore emails from 30 people saying, “Yes, I’m in!” and “I’m soooo sorry, I have a wedding that day so I can’t make it.”
Don’t forget your signature.
Set up an automatic signature that tells the recipient a) who you are and b) how to contact you.