Email etiquette

Email is an essential tool that can be effective with thoughtfulness and discipline. It should not be supplanted by other forms of social media.  Professional behavior, common courtesy, a clear message and the following rules of etiquette will allow you to be efficient and to control the process:

  • Professional sounding addresses will make the right impression
  • Step away from the computer if you have received an angry message or feel irritated yourself.  Explain your tone where possible.
  • Email is a letter that needs to be complete and professional – include a friendly greeting and closing.
  • Respond to all emails as soon as as is realistic.  Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Message that deserve a little more time and thought should have their receipt confirmed.  Notify the sender that you are going to take the time to respond with the appropriate attention.
  • Reply All –  has been known to create problems. Proceed with great caution and only use it when everyone in that thread needs to be updated.
  • BCC – is acceptable especially in those instances when you don’t want all of the recipients to be visible to everyone; particularly on routine follow-ups.
  • Fewer recipients will avoid confusion and problems with prioritization.
  • Subject lines need to be specific and short. Your audience should be able to immediately glean the purpose of your message.
  • Double and triple check the subject line and promised attachments.  Attach your files first.  Rushing creates mistakes.
  • Clarity and conciseness are also essential to the body of the email.  Pages of text will dilute the message. Arrange a meeting and pick up the phone.
  • Traditional writing rules don’t change: proper sentence structure, capitalization, and punctuation.
  • Action items and a clear request will allow for efficiencies and fewer messages.
  • Updates without a needed response should be labeled as such.
  • Bullet points and numbered lists are appropriate and useful.
  • Bold important information.  Avoid using all caps, which carries similar risks to – Reply All.
  • Legible fonts are very important. Keep your message clean and avoid too many colours.
  • Links should be tested before sending.  Label them as to their importance and create a recognizable title
  • PDF’s work.  Other formats can cause compatibility issues.
  • Zip and Compress – large attachments.  Some recipient systems will kick back these files.

Face to face meetings are 34X more effective than electronic communications according to the Harvard Business Review.  Use your interpersonal strengths whenever possible.

Consider a handwritten note where appropriate — especially for a thank you.  Paying attention makes a difference in how your are viewed.  Your name is on everything.

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