When you were young, you were taught to say “Please” and “Thank you.” When you went out to get a job, you learned the importance of a firm handshake and professional attire. Manners matter—and they matter even in actions as mundane as daily emails. Email entwines with our lives; texting may be modern and faster, but email is still the go-to in business. And, according to the book Business Writing Today by Natalie Canavor, email comes “with that most special and frightening feature: limitless forwardability.”
Think about it. Any email you send to anyone…can be sent on to anyone else. You don’t want that rushed email ending up in your colleague’s cousin’s friend’s plumber’s cat’s neighbor’s popular blog collection of “Worst Emails Ever Sent.”
But don’t worry about embarrassing scenarios anymore (realistic or otherwise). After these two posts on email etiquette, you’ll know how to mind your email manners with pride and finesse.
As we’ve already covered, you’ve got to be careful with what you write. Only email things that you would be okay with anyone seeing—because they might. You could accidentally select the wrong person in your address book. And sharing private or classified details could cause you legal problems, besides the personal ones.
Don’t email people when you’re upset. You’ll regret it. On the other end of the spectrum, avoid humor and sarcasm as well. Without body language and tone of voice, your words could come across in a way you did not mean at all.
Attachments. Find out if the recipient wants an attachment (and in what file format). Some people prefer all the information in the body of the email. Send a heads-up email if you’re sending an attachment, and give the attachment a clear and accurate name. If you call it “Document 1,” they’ll never find it when they need it (and they might not open it if they don’t know what it is).
Maybe email isn’t the right medium for what you need to communicate. If you have bad news or a complicated project to discuss, grab the phone or set up an in-person meeting.
Respond to an email within 24 to 48 hours. Sooner is better, but you do not need to answer the instant your inbox dings with a new message. When you send out your emails, you can even let people know if you expect a response or not.
Don’t send an unnecessary reply that will join the poor recipient’s flooded inbox of 714 unopened messages. Watch the Reply All button, too. If not everyone is dying to know your answer, just reply to the one or two people who need to know.
What about those long email conversations? You know, it started out as a discussion on contacting new clients, with an appropriate subject line, and 16 messages later you’re talking about who needs to do what at next week’s job fair. Change the subject line to match the new subject.
With the basics of email communication covered, I thank you for reading. Please come back for part two on email etiquette. In the meantime, if you’re looking for marketing, social media, or content experts, look no further. ASJ can help, so contact us today.