Email Etiquette

Emails have been a topic of conversation at the office recently.  We use emails for internal and external communication on several different levels.  For example during the week of May 11th, my stats are as follows:Email Stats

An average of 200 received emails and 50 sent emails a day just for me! Given the large quantity of information in a short period, I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips gathered from several Internet resources to help us all make the most of email as a business tool in today’s society.   Please note, that the resources I referred to below are referenced at the end of this blog.

When information needs to be disseminated quickly, there is no better way than by email. Unfortunately, with the benefit of speed come some problems that are not always predictable unless employees are forewarned [1]. When communicating with someone about a work-related matter, it is always important to be professional. While a lot of people understand the importance of following certain rules when writing a business letter, they often forget these rules when composing an email message. Here is a refresher.

Mind Your Manners: Think of the basic rules you learned growing up, like saying please and thank you.

Watch Your Tone: Merriam-Webster defines tone as an “accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion.” It is very difficult to express tone in writing. You want to come across as respectful, friendly, and approachable. You don’t want to sound curt or demanding.

Be Concise: Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible, but don’t leave out important details that will help your recipient answer your query.

Use Correct Spelling and Proper Grammar: Use a dictionary or a spell checker — whichever works better for you. While you can write in a conversational tone (contractions are okay), pay attention to basic rules of grammar. [2]

Avoid writing your message using all upper case letters. It looks like you’re shouting. Don’t use all lower case letters either. Some people say it will make it seem like you’re mumbling. [3]

Use your spell checker. That is what it’s for. Don’t rely entirely on the spell checker though. If you are using the wrong spelling for a particular use of a word, i.e. two vs. to vs. too, the spell checker won’t pick up your mistake. Don’t try to guess the spelling of a word. Look it up. Good grammar is important. Contractions are okay. Slang is not. Under no circumstances should you use offensive language. [4]

Impressions are Everything: In business, on or off-line, impressions are everything. Think about it… off-line you notice what people wear, how they present themselves, the quality or lack there of their business cards. The very same applies online. As an example, if you e-mail in one liners, do not spell check, do not use proper sentence structure or lack basic grammar, how do you think that reflects on you and your business? Not good, right? [5]

Reply to All: Use this button with discretion! You need to carefully think about whether “all” really need to be aware of your reply to conduct business. Never use this button to CYA or eTattle on a coworker or colleague — doing so will just make you look petty while increasing others e-mail volume unnecessarily. This also applies to adding additional people to the email chain just to CYA.

Formatting: Refrain from using any formatting in your day-to-day business e-mail communications. Unless you would type something in bold crimson letters on business letterhead, don’t do it when e-mailing for commercial gain. With all the spam filtering going on today; the more formatting or embedded images that higher the chance that your e-mail could be blocked as spammy.

Even something as simple as using a different font makes your e-mail’s display contingent upon the recipient having that specific font on their system or it defaults to their designated default font. Keep in mind the recipient may not have their e-mail program configured in such a way as to display your formatting the way it seems on your system – if at all. [6]

Here is some great information about using the To, Cc and Bcc fields:

You should always make sure you e-mail the right people, in the right way. The To, Cc and Bcc fields allow you to indicate how your message should be read by the people who receive it.

The To field is for people who the message directly affects, and that you need action from. If you expect someone to do something, they should be in the To field. It’s also a good idea to include all the people you put in the To: field in your opener line. This lets the others know who is involved in the conversation. The To field can be used for as many addresses as you like – some people mistakenly think the Cc line is for multiple addresses.

The Cc (or carbon copy) field is for people you want to know about the message, but are not directly involved. It’s mainly for people who do not need to act or reply to the message, but to keep them informed. The CC field can be used for a number of reasons. It keeps other people “in the loop” on certain issues (often used to keep managers up to date on issues). It lets people know if they are expected to take action, or if they are just being informed.

Finally, the Bcc field (Blind Carbon Copy) is used when you want other people to receive the message, but you don’t want the other recipients to know they got it. When people get an e-mail, they’ll also see all the people in the To and Cc lines – but not Bcc. One good use of Bcc is when sending an e-mail to hundreds of people. You don’t want them all to see each other’s e-mail addresses so you use this field, rather than the To or Cc lines. [7] The other reason is to keep a manager informed on a conversation but you don’t want the recipient to know you are sharing the conversation. If you receive an email via Bcc DO NOT reply to all if you choose to reply. The original sender had a reason to Bcc you so don’t ruin their trust by spilling the beans. If you feel the sender should have not included you as a Bcc you should then discuss that with them first.

All in all, email etiquette can play a huge role in improving communication in the workplace, making email a great business tool. Any suggestions you may have, please share in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.