13 Basic Email Etiquette Every Professional Should Know
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With the advent of the internet, came Electronic Mail or ‘Email’ as we know it. A lot of professionals, on average, spend several hours of their work week combing through hundreds of emails. Despite being glued to the reply button, most of us still don’t know how to use the email appropriately. We are prone to making embarrassing errors, it might be because of the sheer volume of messages we’re reading and writing or just plainly unfamiliar with sending a professional email. After all, there are no set standards in writing emails compared to writing an actual business letter. But take note, those mistakes can have serious consequences.
To avoid those mistakes, we listed down 13 of the most basic things to remember when writing a professional email.
1. There is cultural difference in emails
Yes, your culture can be reflected in the emails that you send. There are high context and low context cultures. High context cultures tend to talk a lot and want to know more about you before doing business with you (e.g. Japanese and Filipinos). On the other hand, low context culture, prefer to get straight to the point (e.g. Americans).
Miscommunication can easily occur especially in emails, everything is in writing so you can’t see another’s body language or facial expressions. Try to tailor your messages to your recipients cultural background, or how well you know them.
2. Make a Direct Subject Line
The subject line is the first thing your recipient would read when they receive your email, this is often the deciding factor whether to open an email now or later, or even if they need to open it at all. Keep your subject line short, simple and direct to the point. Examples of a good subject line include “Marketing Proposal for August” or “Product Revisions for new client.”
3. Use a professional email address
Don’t use your personal email address, you should always use your company email address. But if you do not have a company email address and rely on free email services, you should at least create one that would convey your name or your company name so that recipients know who exactly an email is from. Never use inappropriate email addresses such as “[email protected]” or “[email protected]” – regardless of how good looking you are, you would only look childish and unprofessional.
Read more on why you need a professional email here: 8 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Custom Email.
4. Think twice before clicking ‘reply all’
Refrain from clicking ‘reply all’, not unless you think everyone on the list needs to know your response to that email. No one wants to read emails that have nothing to with them.
5. Reply to your emails, even if it’s not intended for you
As good email etiquette, try to reply to all emails you receive, which include emails that were accidentally sent to you. That person might be waiting for an important response and they failed to notice that their email was sent to the wrong email address.
6. Use professional salutations
The relaxed nature of our writing should not reflect on our salutation, never use colloquial expressions like, “Wassup,” “Hey guys,” or “Yo!” These are very informal salutations and should not be used in the workplace. You can try using, ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello,’ some would even use ‘Dear.’
Try not to shorten a person’s name, an example is calling someone ‘Jeffrey’ instead of just ‘Jeff’. Make sure not to use their nickname also, unless they prefer to be called by that.
7. Humor is subjective
Keep tabs on inserting humor on your emails. It can easily get lost in translation without the right body language, facial expression or tone. What’s funny when spoken may be misinterpreted when written. So better leave humor out of professional emails, unless you know the recipient that well.
8. Exclamation points must be used sparingly
Use an exclamation point only when needed, or in this case, only when conveying excitement. Using too many exclamation points on your email can convey a different message and can make you appear immature or emotional.
9. Watch your tone
The tone of your email can easily be misinterpreted just as jokes are when being read from an email, this is due to the absence of context you get from facial expressions or vocal cues. So being straightforward may be interpreted as being angry or commanding. A good tip here is to read your message out loud before sending it, if it sounds harsh, then it will sound harsh to your recipient.
10. Stick to the classic fonts
No need to use fancy fonts on your emails, it would only make you appear unprofessional. As a general rule, use fonts that can be easily read by anyone. Stick to the classics like Arial or Calibri, font size at least 11 or 12 and font color black is the safest choice.
11. Use a signature block
Let your recipient know who you are. Generally, this would include your full name, title, company name and contact information like a phone number and business address. Better to use the same font type, size and color as the rest of your email. It’s OK to put a little publicity for yourself but don’t go overboard with the famous quotes.
12. Proofread everything
Don’t rely on spell-check, read through your email and check every aspect of it like your tone, grammar and punctuation’s. An example is when your meant to say ‘Sorry for the inconvenience’ but spell-check might change it to ‘Sorry for the incompetence.’ Mistakes won’t go unnoticed by your recipients, you never know when you might get judged for making them.
13. Add the recipients email address last
No one wants to accidentally send an email before it’s even finished. What more if you accidentally send it without proofreading it, with a lot of misspelled words and to the wrong recipient, that would be embarrassing. As a general rule, add the recipients email address last. It’s also good practice even when replying to an email. Erase the recipients email address while composing your response, then just add it later when your really ready to hit that send button.