Why is email etiquette important ?

email etiquette

What is email etiquette?

Email etiquette means the principles that need to be followed while sending and receiving emails. This includes guidelines regarding appropriate language, spelling, grammar, and manners. The proper etiquette depends on the environment, purpose and the kind of recipients the mail is addressed to.

Why do you need email etiquette?

A popular, most widely used and potent medium of communication these days is email or Electronic Mail. We use this for personal and professional purposes. Emails are sent to facilitate formal and informal communication in today’s world. In most organisations Email is the main channel of communication that needs to be smooth, unclogged and effective. Emails need to be clear, courteous, precise and productive or impactful

Good email etiquette ensures positive and desired response and effective communication of intended message. Adherence to proper email etiquette is essential to create the right impact and perception in recipients.

A few gentle reminders that we all need to keep in mind while using Emails, particularly in the professional arena, are appended below:

What are three benefits of good email etiquette?

Professionalism : creates a good impression and the desired impact.
Efficiency : it helps prevent confusion and misunderstandings, ensuring your message is read and responded to quickly. Emails that get to the point are much more effective than poorly worded emails. Get across important information in a clear, precise and fast manner
Accountability : Email etiquette can help us stay accountable in communication by providing a clear record and allowing for easy tracking of emails. It’s the key to successful business communication. Email etiquette can help avoid costly mistakes while ensuring respectful, efficient, and easily tracked communication.

Rules for email etiquette

Eighteen email etiquette rules you should follow as a professional:

  1. Please let’s ensure that the language and tone is professional while writing emails even to internal stakeholders and team members. Please keep the language gender neutral ( no gender bias indications towards the recipient)
    Be careful with your word choices and always consider how the recipient might interpret them. As you can’t rely on facial expressions, gestures and intonation to deliver the message, make an extra effort to come across as positive.Don’t use negative words and adjectives that can make you seem more emotional than you actually are.
  2. Refrain from humour. Humour is often lost in translation. It’s not even about the risk of being misunderstood – what you find funny is not necessarily funny to the recipient.
  3. Write like nothing is confidential – Avoid discussing sensitive issues or confidential information over email as they can get into the wrong hands notoriously easily. Moreover they can be used against you. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so a good guideline for business email etiquette is not to write an email you wouldn’t want the whole world to read. Never assume privacy when writing an email. In a professional environment especially any mail can be subject to scrutiny without any warning. All messages distributed via the Company’s email system, even personal emails, are the Company’s property.Your emails can be monitored without prior notification if the Company deems this necessary
  4. Use Active voice and assume ownership for what you say.Active voice makes it clear who is supposed to do what. It eliminates ambiguity about responsibilities. Not “It will be done,” but “I will do it.”
  5. Be sensitive about cultural differences
    In written words there is no body language to lend meaning to the message. Hence it is essential to have an understanding of the recipient’s culture when you are emailing someone abroad. Understanding their preferences will help you to build stronger relationships with them.
    In some countries, it’s preferred to go straight to the point. In contrast, in others, it’s customary to get to know the sender first. This also entails an understanding about different time zones people operate from, the significance people attach to certain expressions and greetings and the level of formality expected.
  6. A clear professional subject line is a must for every mail – The subject line will indicate what the email will cover. Many people will decide whether they will open an email depending on the subject line. For someone who gets hundreds of emails a day, a subject line that is to the point makes it easier for them to sort through their inbox and decide what communications to prioritise. The subject line helps in searching later and in giving the reader an inkling of what to expect. Moreover the mail without a subject line goes to the spam folder. Let’s ensure we have a succinct subject line – brief and indicative. It should be a phrase rather than a sentence. One tip is to write the subject line after the mail has been drafted so that you are clear about the key words to include in the subject line.
  7. Use the appropriate level of formality – A mail should have a basic salutation – formal or informal as the situation demands. Some of the most common greetings include:
    • Dear Ms./Mrs./Mr. ,
    • Hello ,
    • Hi ,

    Always end your email with the appropriate phrase, “Kind regards”, “Thank you”, “Sincerely” and so on. Basic civilities like please while placing a request or a simple ‘Thank You’ as an acknowledgement of receiving any requested email/attachment is much appreciated.
    Some of the most popular professional email closings include:
    • Sincerely,
    • Kind regards,
    • Regards,
    • Best,
    • Thank you,

    It’s important to get the sign-off right. It’s the last thing that the recipient reads and can leave a lasting impression similar to the conclusion of a meeting or the end of a phone call.
  8. Format, Structure and Style – Uniformity of font size, color and type in accordance with brand guidelines is a must. Spacing between lines and paragraphs should be uniform.
    Using a clean font ensures that your mail is easy to read. It’s best to use the standard font of your email client.
    Some of the best fonts for email include:
    • Arial
    • Helvetica
    • Calibri
    • Courier
    • Times New Roman
    When it comes to the colour of the font, black is the best choice. The right size is either 10-point or 12-point, depending on the length of your email. In case you copy and paste text to your email, remember to clear the formatting, or it might appear different than the rest of the message.
  9. A professional email should include a subject line, greeting, body, sign-off, and signature. These parts should be distinctly separated.
    The email body should have maximum three paragraphs. As people tend to “scan” emails looking for the essence start each paragraph by highlighting the most important thing. Spacing between the paragraphs improves readability.
    Pasting long URLs into your email makes it look messy and makes it tough to read. It’s best to use a URL shortener such as bit.ly or insert a hyperlink instead.
  10. Introduce yourself – You shouldn’t ever assume that the recipient knows who you are. Especially if you contact someone you don’t know for the first time, it’s part of email etiquette to start your email’s body with a brief introduction – a short line or two covering relevant information will do. If you know the recipient but you’re not quite sure whether your name rings a bell to them, find a way to mention the last time you talked or remind them how you know each other.
  11. Answer all questions and pre-empt further questions – this will help to avoid undue back and forth in mail exchanges.
  12. Specify the response you want. Don’t leave it for the recipient to figure out or be vague about it. Include any call to action you want, such as a phone call or follow-up appointment. This will help in evoking desired responses more efficiently.
  13. Include a signature block. It is professional to include your full name, title, your company , your email and your contact number. When the mail goes out to an external client, the signature and disclaimer needs to be in accordance with Company norms. If your recipient doesn’t know anything about you, they may be skeptical of the authenticity of your email. The disclaimer protects you from legal hassles.
  14. Responding in time is essential – often a 24 hour window will make the response redundant. Ideally it should be immediate or at least within 15 minutes. Even If a response formulation is likely to take time – acknowledging the receipt and a assuring a response with a timeline by which one will get back with relevant details helps. Most people at some point have felt swamped by the large number of emails they have to sift through. But replying to an email is good etiquette, especially if the sender is expecting a response. Acknowledging you received the email but will get back to the sender at a later time is a professional alternative to ignoring or avoiding certain emails. One should put ‘vacation responder on’ while going for a holiday, especially client facing people.If you are away for long It’s important to include a specific date when you’ll be back so that they can proceed accordingly. You should also provide the contact information of a person the sender can reach out if their matter is urgent.
  15. Keep emails brief and to the point. It’s best to keep it concise and precise and focus on what we wish to convey with utmost clarity. No one wants to read an enormous chunk of text. You can always follow up on the matter later or suggest they give you a call if they have any queries or concerns.Use short sentences and logical sequence of thoughts.
  16. Ideally a mail should be concerning a single issue/ topic / message. If there are multiple points they should be separate paragraphs or bullet points. Use bullet point or numbered lists to bring more structure to your writing, break up wordy sections. If you use bold to highlight what’s most important, never use it for more than one word or phrase per email.
  17. Think twice before forwarding
    In keeping with avoiding sensitive topics and confidential information when it comes to email etiquette, you should always forward emails with caution. When you do decide to forward an email, it’s important to summarize what’s been discussed and let the recipient know what’s needed from them. You should also edit anything unnecessary out of the email, such as forwarding signs, other email addresses, subject lines, and previous commentary.
    When forwarding do not chop off sections of a trail mail.
  18. Please CC all relevant recipients. It is unprofessional to leave out a colleague or client from a relevant email chain. Be mindful of who should be informed about a given matter and respect that. Don’t put all the names in the “To”field. The recipient in the “To” field is the one expected to respond as the mail is addressed to him/her. The ones to be kept in the loop can be kept in “CC”.

Ten email writing mistakes you should avoid:

  1. Stop using ALL CAPS in email. That’s Digital Shouting!! Use sentence case. Sentence case means capitalizing the first letter of the first word in a sentence and any proper nouns.
  2. Avoid using abbreviation, acronyms and jargons. Avoid exclamation marks and emojis.
  3. Please do not use BCC indiscreetly. BCC stands for blind carbon copy, and it allows you to conceal the names entered in the BCC field from the other recipients. It allows you to protect the privacy of recipients. The BCC option is to share a mail with recipients without an unduly long list visible to all and also to circulate discretely. Blind carbon copy can also be abused, and using it for the wrong reasons is considered deceptive and bad manners.
  4. Never use offensive and abusive language. If you find yourself writing in anger, save it in draft.
  5. Avoid typing errors, grammatical and professional errors, spelling mistakes – Proofread every email you send.
    Have you spelt the recipient’s name correctly? Are there spelling errors? Are you using simple sentence structures and correct capitalisation and punctuation? Ignoring these compromises your professionalism and the credibility of your email..
  6. Avoid using URGENT or IMPORTANT in subject line. Avoid the High Priority option as well.
  7. Please do not ask for read and delivery receipts unnecessarily. Don’t recall a message once sent as it has already been seen.
  8. Please don’t attach unnecessary documents and files. One of the most important email etiquette rules regarding attachments is that you shouldn’t attach large files to your emails and clutter mail boxes and space. The best way to send, for example, a presentation or video is to upload the file to a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox and provide the recipient with a link that allows them to access it. If that’s not possible, make sure to compress the file before attaching it so that it’ll take less space in their inbox. Remember also to mention the attachment in your email body to make sure that the recipient notices it.
  9. Please do not hit Reply All unless you are sure you want everybody to view your response.
  10. Do not enter the recipient email address before you write your email.
    It is always best practice to write the contents of your email first in case you accidentally send the message too early. Double check you have the correct recipient. There is nothing worse than sending an email to the wrong recipient or a confidential document to the wrong client or company

It’s best to be clear about the purpose of the email and the receptivity level of the recipients before drafting and email. We need to be conscious of the email etiquette we need to follow to create the right impact. For professional mail exchanges please use a professional email id and not one with funny nicknames. After the email is ready, we should review the mail before clicking the send button. We should be sure that we are not sending across something in a hurry that we may regret later. Besides spell checks, reading the email through the eyes of the recipient will help in sending a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate comments. One tip is to always read the email aloud and see how it sounds and then to edit as required. Empathy is the key to effective communication where we can place ourselves in the shoes of the recipient and act in accordance.

Member - Board of Governors at CYGNUS CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE | Website

An entrepreneur, voice over artist, communication and soft skill trainer, HR professional,writer and amateur actor, Rajrupa thrives in her people-connect skills. She has been a faculty at several institutes and colleges teaching communication and soft skills. She has handled several portfolios in the corporate sector and has headed HR function for several years.
She is an alumnus of St Xavier's College, Kolkata and a post graduate in English Literature from the University of Kolkata. She is the recipient of the proficiency medal along with several other awards from National Institute of Personnel Management

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