Defining E-mail Etiquette
E-mail etiquette means rules one should follow while writing an e-mail. Although, there are many rules on how to write an e-mail, in this write-up however, we will concentrate on the rules for writing business e-mails. Since, e-mail has become one of the most widely used communication method today, next to mobile, telephone, mails, and FAX machines, one must use proper e-mail etiquette when drafting e-mails, specifically business e-mails.
Why do we need E-mail Etiquette?
We need e-mail etiquette while drafting business e-mails because e-mail etiquette:
- Conveys Professionalism
When you use proper e-mail language, you convey a professional image. E-mail etiquettes ensure that you use proper business language when writing e-mails to clients.
- Ensures Efficiency
Writinge-mails to the point facilitates exchange of thoughts appropriately. Knowledge of e-mail etiquette increases the efficacy of writing e-mails.
- Protects from Liability
Using the organization’s e-mail to conduct private business, sending confidential organizational information to competitors, harassing co-workers and the like can land an organization in trouble. Knowledge of e-mail etiquette can protect you from costly lawsuits.
Components of E-mail Etiquette
The components of e-mail etiquette are:
- Address Fields
- Subject Field
- E-Mail Signature
Let’s discuss each component in detail.
When sending an official e-mail, remember:
- In the ‘To’field, include only the names of the people you need to address directly or who need to act on the message.
- Do not include team members, especially seniors in the ‘BCC’ field on formal e-mails. Rather, forward the e-mail from your ‘Sent Items’ as ‘For Your Information (FYI)’. Before you shoot the e-mail, include a summary of the e-mail below so that the recipient need not spend much time figuring out the e-mail thread.
- In the ‘CC’ field, include only the names of the people who just need to be in the communication loop.
Keep the subject concise and crisp because:
- The subject line is the source with which the recipient decides whether your message is spam or not.
How does the subject line ‘About XYZ Course’ sound in comparison to ‘Updates in XYZ lesson in ABC Course’ when you want to inform the client that the lesson of this particular course has been updated?
Remember, spammers use meaningless subject lines to allow spams to be mistaken as personal messages. So, do not use unprofessional subject lines, unless you’re a spammer!
- The senior management and clients read the subject first.
If the subject line is not appropriate or missing, there are chances that 7 out 10 times your message will not get across. Create a subject line specific to the e-mail you are sending, which authenticates your message as non-spam.
- An appropriate subject line facilitates the search for a specific e-mail in case it is needed later.
Suppose you are searching for your latest updated resume and you had updated your resume ten times and mailed yourself. How are you supposed to find the resume you had updated recently, as there are ten e-mails to look at? Now, imagine if the subject line of the email with your latest updated resume had read ‘My Resume Updated on so and so Date’, would it have not been easier for you to get your latest resume without any hassle?
- Right salutation reflects courtesy
Right salutation in e-mails, especially in client e-mails makes all the difference. Right words give a good impression of your courtesy and understanding.
Correct Salutation – Hi Anita,
When writing an e-mail to a client, include the name of the client along with a greeting.
Incorrect Salutation – Hi, Hi Arun/Prachi, Hi HR
- Avoid writing just ‘Hi’ specifically in client e-mails. Write ‘Hi Anita,’
- Do not write ‘Hi Arun/Prachi’. Instead use ‘Hi Arun and
- Avoid writing ‘Hi HR’
E-mail signature needed in official e-mails because there can be times when you have sent an important e-mail and the client has not received it.Whom is the client supposed to reach out to in this case? Signature is the best way to indicate your contact details and letting the client know who the point of contact is.
Remember, your responsibility does not end at just sending an e-mail. It ends when the client has received the e-mail and his/her queries or concerns are addressed. Mention your designation and contact details in formal e-mails. It’s important!
Drafting Business E-mails: Some Tips
- Don’t try to be journalists while writing your e-mails. Be sharp and to the point! It may have been your past profession, but today you are in the IT industry. A person receives hundreds of messages everyday and usually doesn’t have the time to read long stories.
- Avoid being verbose
- Do not use flowery language – You are not reporting earthquake to the world. Keep the message concise and to the point.
- Do not write long stories and description
- Use simple words. Please remember that the client is not testing your vocabulary. The client will judge on the product you will deliver and not on your creative e-mail.
- Avoid long paragraphs. Clients generally do not appreciate long e-mails. They tend to read better when your e-mail is bulleted. Make your point in the first three bullet points. They tend to lose track after the third bullet point.
- Be concise and to the point. Reading a long e-mail is harder than reading printed communications and can be very discouraging to read.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, & punctuation. E-mails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. Do not forget to run a spell check to avoid spelling errors.
How to Avoid Errors When Drafting Business E-Mails
- Check the ‘To’ field
The ‘To’ field is one of the main reasons for e-mails to be sent to an unintended recipient or bouncing back. Hence, it is essential to check the “To” field before sending an e-mail. In the “To” field, include only the names of the people to whom the message should be sent.
- Check the ‘Cc’ field
Include only the names of people who need be in the loop or need to act on the message.
- Check the ‘Subject’ field
Use an appropriate subject line. Due to inappropriate subject, the receiver might not read the mail and even delete it without opening thinking a spam message.
- Check spelling errors
Spelling mistakes give the impression that the sender is sloppy and careless. You must be careful about avoiding such mistakes when responding to a client or other similar important e-mail communication.
- Check e-mail attachment
Check if you have attached the document you intend to send and more importantly, the correct document.
- Check for e-mail accessories
Avoid using quotations, background templates, unreadable fonts, and picture messages in your e-mails. It is a myth that you make an impression with the quotation below your signature. It is rather irritating and does not win you any brownie points.
Summarizing E-mail Etiquette
- Include only the names of people in the ‘To’ list to whom the e-mail should be sent. Don’t unnecessarily include names of people in the ‘Cc’ field unless required. Avoid using ‘Bcc’.
- Keep the subject line appropriate and crisp. Use title case for all words more than four characters.
- Use right salutation like ‘Hi XYZ’ in business e-mails. Right salutation gives a good impression of your courtesy and understanding.
- Write e-mails to the point. Avoid long sentences and big paragraphs. Instead, make a bulleted list.
- Always read the message before broadcasting it to the world.
- Do not use ‘Reply All’ unless required. Mark only the relevant people. Avoid marking e-mails to people who are not associated with the point of discussion. Change the subject when you are discussing something else in the same e-mail thread.
- Include a brief signature in your e-mail messages to help clients understand whom the e-mail is from.
- Run a spell check before sending any e-mail. It does not make a good impression when the recipient catches a typo.
- Do not send attachments over 2 MB. The recipient may not have a broadband connection.
- Avoid using e-mail accessories. Rather, use templates. Create standard text for standard e-mails.