Online communication has taken the greatest jump in 2020. For many of us, email has become the primary way to communicate. We are spending hours and days composing, sending, and replying to emails. Digital communication requires a whole new skill set, which is why adopting solid practices is important. In this article, we are looking at 10 Email Etiquette rules everyone should follow.
Rule #1 – Subject line
Your email subject should do what it says on the tin – or in this case – what it says in the email. Your subject line should summarize the substance of your message clearly and concisely. Keep the subject line brief and to the point- if you write a full sentence, it’s likely to cut off, and the subject line will become unclear.
We all choose which emails to open first based on the subject lines. Unclear email subject can waste yours and the recipient’s time. You want to make the recipient’s digital life easier by clearly communicating the reason for your email. If your message requires a particular action, you can specify that action in the subject line. That way, the reader will know right away that they are needed to do something.
Rule #2 – Greeting
How you begin an email is important. It sets a tone, paints a picture, and it may also determine whether or not the recipient will continue reading.
Digital behaviors have evolved, and when it comes to emails, they are no longer equivalents of correctly worded letters. Of course, the way you greet the reader is vital, but you may want to save ‘dear’ for more formal situations. Typically, if you are writing an email in a work or business environment, the safest choice is “Hi [name].” This option is friendly and perfectly innocuous.
If you don’t know the recipient’s name, “Greetings” “Good morning/afternoon” is also an appropriate choice. That being said, you should always make every effort to find out the recipient’s name.
When it comes to continuing email threads, you shouldn’t keep saying “Hi [name]” in every single email. If you are having a digital conversation, address it that way. There is no need for a greeting every time you contribute to the discussion. Unless, of course, the thread is ongoing for several days, in which case it’s a good practice to say “Hi” each day.
Rule #3 – Email Body
The email body is where you communicate your main message. While there is a lot of leave way where email composing is concerned and depends on the intent of the message and the audience- there are still some email etiquette rules.
Your email should be concise and to the point: no gibbering, no jargon, and no unnecessary small talk. If you know a lot about a particular subject, it does not mean you have to share it all with the recipient.
If you are trying to send a lengthy message, consider compartmentalizing with subheadings, paragraph spaces, or bullet points. It’s also important to communicate all the useful information the first time. You want to be respectful of the recipient’s time, and they should not have to ask for an explanation or elaboration of your message.
Keeping your communications brief is an excellent way of maintaining efficiency and professionalism, but excessive brevity is not a good practice – it can be perceived as cold and confusing. No one is too busy to say “please” and “thank you.”
Rule #4 – Formatting
When formatting, there is one fundamental email etiquette rule – it should be easy for the recipient to read. Pink Comic Sans may have a time and place, but in a workplace or business setting, you’ll want to keep your fonts, sizes, and colors classic.
Typically, it’s best to use an easy to read fonts such as Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman in size 10 to 12. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid using CAPS- the world could use a bit more of a kind note. As for color, black is your safest option.
Rule #5 – To, Cc and Bcc
As a general rule, the primary recipient who is expected to respond to your email should go in the ‘To’ field. If someone is not a primary recipient and you do not require them to respond but want to keep them in the know, they should go in the ‘Cc’ field.
Typically, if you are Cc’d in an email, a response is only required if you have something to add that is relevant to the message, otherwise it’s just for your information.
‘Bcc’ option is only used in limited circumstances and with proper intentions. e.g., to protect the recipient’s identity when sending confidential information. There are only a handful of situations when you would use Bcc. For example, you might want to consider Bcc when trying to avoid an email apocalypse when sending a business-wide update. Or when someone can be moved to Bcc, as their direct input is no longer required in an ongoing thread.
Rule #6 – Reply vs. Replay all
Use ‘Reply’ when you only want to send your message to a single person in the email thread- either the original sender or the last person to reply. You can ‘Reply all’ when you want to respond to everyone on the thread.
If only one person needs to know you responded, and you are certain no one else expects your response, go ahead and ‘Reply’ to that person.
Where your response could impact most of the recipients on the thread, or if others could be confused by not receiving your response, use ‘Reply All.’
In situations where business-wide emails are sent with updates or promotions, only reply directly to the colleague you want to address or congratulate.
Rule #7 – Response Times
We are all human, and we want to know if our messages have been received. Always reply to emails within 24 hours, even if it’s simply to acknowledge receipt, and explain that you will revert within a defined timescale.
When going on a vacation, or taking a break for a day or two, ensure that you set up an appropriate out of office message to let others know expected response times.
If your message is met with silence, sending a follow-up trail is unlikely to help the situation. Unless your message is truly urgent, avoid following up on an email within 48 hours. No one likes to receive a heap of new messages. While there are certain email etiquette rules, everyone has different approaches to dealing with their email correspondence. They might simply have other priorities than answering you immediately.
Rule #8 – When to send email
If it’s work or business email – adhere to business hours. One of the main causes of email stress is that we can’t get away from it. We can check our emails anytime and anywhere. We are feeling accessible and yet trapped at the same time. You might think that it’s up to the recipient when they want to reply to your email, but we all know how difficult it is to ignore those pesky notifications. It’s on the sender to be respectful. Unless you and your colleagues are heart surgeons, consider other people’s time, and stick to business hours.
Rule #9 – The Sign-off and Signature
You can’t go wrong, by concluding your message with “Best”- most professionals agree that it’s the safest possible choice. While there are many other appropriate sign-offs, that will depend on the context and relationship you have with the recipient – when in doubt, go with ‘Best.’
Manners aside, signing off an email is also very much about practicality and function. The recipient will want to know immediately who you are and how to contact you. As a minimum, you should always include your full name and phone number in your signature. You may also consider including your business name, mailing address, your company’s website, and your email address.
Rule #10 – Finishing Touches
Before you click ‘Send,’ take a moment to ask yourself these questions: Are you articulating yourself clearly? Have you checked your grammar, spelling, and punctuation? In pausing to do this, you show respect for the recipient’s time and intelligence, which is what email etiquette is about.
And finally, remember that every email leaves a digital trail. Always work with the assumption that the world can see what you type. If in doubt, don’t send it.
Millennium Group is here to handle all your email technology needs. If you require any help or if you have questions regarding email etiquette rules, contact us today for a consultation.