The SMH Guide to Email Etiquette
Statistics show that up to a quarter of our working day can be spent reading, writing and responding to email. This got me thinking; as a user of email for over 25 years, no one has ever actually shown me how to use it “properly”?
With that in mind, we’ve compiled some basic tips, or ‘email etiquette’ we should all be following, which will hopefully mean we might all be a little more cautious the next time we open our Inboxes...
Let’s face it, we’re busy people. We sometimes get a huge number of emails each and every day and our time is precious. So, we may all be guilty of making the occasional mildly embarrassing mistake via email. However, sometimes, those mildly embarrassing mistakes can have potentially serious consequences...
(Oh, by the way, I’m far from perfect! There are at least 5 of these that I unfortunately still do quite regularly! Read on and let me know how many you will admit to regularly being guilty of!)
#1: Add the recipient’s email address at the end
Adding the email address just before you are ready to send will ensure that nothing gets sent accidentally, or before you’ve had chance to proof it. Another good tip is to remove the email address when you are replying to a message, again until you are ready to send it.
#2: Is the correct recipient in the ‘To’ box?
We probably all have many people in our collective address books with the same name, so we need to make sure we select the correct one - especially when using auto-complete! Selecting the wrong person can not only be embarrassing, but in the times of GDPR, it could mean you accidentally disclose personal information that you otherwise wouldn’t want to.
#3: Are you addressing the correct recipient in the email body?
No one wants to receive an email addressed to someone else. It shows that it is most likely a copy and paste job and we are far more likely to delete it unread. Before hitting send, just check that both names match up!
#4: Is their name spelt correctly!
While you are checking you’ve sent it to the right person, make sure you have spelt their name correctly!
#5: Don’t shorten a name
As we are still on the names theme, never shorten a person’s name unless you have an existing relationship with them. You may intend to come across as friendly or informal, but it may potentially put the recipient off if they always go by the name William for example and you start your email with: Hi Will/Bill. Only ever use the shortened version of a recipient’s name if you have a pre-existing relationship with them - or they have used that version of their name in an email or telephone conversation with you.
#6: Are you being clear with your subject line?
Some people will only open/read an email based on the subject line, so make sure you are clear in what you are after.
#7: Include a signature block
Most businesses have a corporate signature. However, if you are using a device other than your desktop, is your signature still being appended? This may not be an issue for everybody, but some companies need their terms including by law. Have a look at products such as Exclaimer to ensure that a signature is used no matter what device you send an email from. Also, with regards to signatures, less is more! Try to limit its size wherever possible.
#8: Do you have a professional looking email address?
I’d imagine this won’t really apply to many as most will have a corporate email address. However, if you ever use a personal email account, make sure the address is suitable for business use. We have had emails in to us when people have been applying for jobs that are incredibly inappropriate. So, just think before you hit send!
#9: Think about your greeting
‘Hi’ appears to be the most commonly used greeting when it comes to email, however there are people that use other greetings such as ‘hey’ or even ‘yo’. Those are incredibly informal, so really shouldn’t be used for work-based emails. Stick to ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ to be safe.
#10: Do you have to ‘reply all’?
If there are a number of people copied into an email, do they all need to be made aware of the reply or can you just isolate one person or a few persons? No one wants to be copied into several emails where the replies have nothing to do with them. So really think about who you need to include when replying.
#11: Use! Exclamation! Points! Sparingly!
Exclamation points should be used very sparingly, if at all in a business email. (When writing a blog however, knock yourself out!)
#12: Be wary with humour
In a professional capacity, it is better to leave humour out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Humour is incredibly subjective and something which may sound funny when said aloud, could be construed completely differently when written down. If in doubt, leave it out. (This is one point the writer of this blog probably needs to be most mindful of…👀)
#13: Whenever possible, reply
Now I know this isn’t practical with every email, but you should try as far as possible to reply to emails where it would be courteous to do so. This especially includes any times where you may have been emailed in error. Reply to the sender to let them know they have emailed you by mistake. This becomes even more important if they are expecting a response from the intended recipient.
#14: Use standard fonts
For business email you really should keep your fonts, colours and sizes ‘classic’. This means fonts such as Calibri, Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman – usually 11 or 12pt and in black. Try to avoid fonts such as Comic Sans, text that is too small or too large, as well as unusual colours like purple or red.
#15: Proofread ALL your messages
Don’t just rely on spellcheck. Read and re-read your messages (aloud if necessary) to make sure they don’t contain errors before you hit send. Mistakes may not always be noticed, and most people won’t be bothered if they do. However, some people may be put off if a message contains errors. So, try to ensure you are being as professional as possible in your correspondence.
#16: Be careful of what you are cc’ing
If you are cc’ing someone new into an email trail are you happy to share all of the details in the previous messages? Do any of the previous messages contain potentially sensitive or personal information? The general rule of thumb should be to only cc someone in as long as you are sure all of the previous messages are safe to be read by anyone.
#17: Avoid using ALL CAPS
Using all caps in an email or text often feels like the writer is shouting. So, unless you want to give that impression, steer clear of the caps lock key.