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Practice E-mail Etiquette for Results

Categories: Business Writing

Do you know e-mail etiquette? Whether it's a cover letter for a job, a pitch to a new client, or an interoffice memo, these 8 guidelines are straightforward and simple.

E-mail can be an effective tool for business, networking, relationship-building, sales, and interoffice communications. While e-mail is a powerful tool in your communication arsenal, professionalism and e-mail etiquette cannot be overlooked.

If you think writing effective business e-mails is a no-brainer, you might be surprised by this article on BusinessInsider.com: “11 Cringeworthy 'Reply-All' Email Disasters.”

Here are 8 tips to write business e-mails that get (positive) results:

  1. Use a focused subject line. Tell your recipients what the e-mail is about, in detail. If you've attached a document of new guildelines, have “New Guidelines Attached” as your subject line. Change the subject line on an e-mail string if the topic shifts.
  2. Keep them short and direct. If you need more than a couple of paragraphs to get your message across, you might find it more effective talk live. Otherwise key points of your message might be lost when the reader "skims" through it.
  3. Make it easy on the eyes. Use short paragraphs and bullet points. Use a readable font size; at least 10 point. Limit (or even eliminate) use of CAPS lock.
  4. Watch grammar & punctuation. Use complete sentences, turn on spellcheck, and proofread your message before you hit “send.”
  5. Remember that e-mails are legal documents. E-mails are accepted as evidence in court cases, so don’t write anything in an e-mail that you would not like to be presented in a legal case.
  6. Be cautious with confidential or sensitive messages. Once you hit send, you cannot control who receives your message. (Note the "reply all" email disasters above.) Your meaning can also be misinterpreted if it's a sensitive issue. When in doubt, opt for the phone or an in-person meeting.
  7. Ask permission before sending big attachments. These can slow down delivery and if your recipient is traveling, they might have trouble downloading it.
  8. Limit “forwards” and “reply all.” People expect their e-mails to be private. Don’t breach this implied social contract by forwarding without permission. Use “reply all” on a need-to-know basis. Does everyone needs to know your response or just the sender?

When you use business e-mail correspondence in a clear, concise, and professional manner, your recipients will likely respond in kind, and they will note your professionalism.

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