Improving email etiquette – a few tips

In today’s world of communication, email is clutch. It’s more formal than text messaging, and quicker, faster and less intrusive than picking up the phone (though that depends on who you ask).

We’ve all done the “Reply All” when we meant to subtract the “All.” But have you ever sent emails and wish you had written them differently?

According to Deloitte, the average office worker sends 160 emails per day and checks his or her inbox more than 50 times per day. And you can bet that human error and miscommunication is going to play a part in those emails more times than not.

So, what do the experts say about proper email etiquette? From The Work Buzz:

Be concise: Email is intended for short, informational messages. Keep in mind that with some email systems it is possible for the recipient to read just the first three lines of your message without ever opening the email. Make the first couple lines count.

Double check: Never, ever skip the spell check and double check the word is not changed to a word you did not intend to use. Spell check is not foolproof if it picks up a word that it ‘thinks’ you mean.
While you’re rereading your email, also take a second to ensure that the correct person’s name is in the “To” field. It can be easy to accidentally type in the wrong name, especially with email programs that auto-complete email addresses when you start typing.

Be professional: Treat email like a professional correspondence, because it is. It’s the only communication most executives see and you will be judged accordingly. That means spelling out words in their entirety, using correct capitalization and including an email signature with your contact information.

Be pleasant: You probably know from experience that it’s hard to tell whether someone is being sarcastic or serious via email. Using all capital letters is considered yelling. The same goes for sentences with excessive punctuation — ending a sentence with “!!!” or “???” will just make you seem angry. Similarly, begin your email with a friendly greeting, not an order. The word ‘hello’ followed by the name of the recipient does wonders in ensuring your email is well received and actually read.

Don’t avoid face-to-face conversation: Sometimes, it’s just easier and more effective to walk into your boss’s office, or pick up the phone and call your customer. Remember that email is more for coordination than it is for communication. If you have a lengthy project or proposal to discuss, schedule time to talk to the person face-to-face or over the phone. Email shouldn’t be used to resolve conflict or as a method of avoiding confrontation.

Don’t copy the whole team: You’ll just waste almost everyone’s time, and most of the recipients will assume that someone else will answer.

Never email when you’re angry. In the heat of an angry moment, it is way too easy to fire off a scathing email full of things you’d never actually say to someone’s face. Wait until you cool off.

What I found interesting was the back-and-forth on a few points reagarding work emails, particularly the use of emoticons. Some think they are okay to help signify tone, while others think they are unprofessional.

…But I’ll leave that up to you to decide.


Scott Dunning, Technical Recruiter

Brian LowryImproving email etiquette – a few tips

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