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How to use proper email etiquette

How to use proper email etiquette

Research has found that the average U.S. employee spends about a quarter of his or her time at work combing through hundreds of emails every single day.

With so many emails being sent each day, embarrassing mistakes can happen from time to time. 

For example, you can easily miss a spelling error while typing out an email on your smartphone, or you may come off as too casual or unprofessional in tone or content.

Here are the most important modern email etiquette rules that every professional should know: 

  • Include a clear, direct subject line.

  • Examples of a good subject line include "Meeting date changed," "Quick question about your presentation," or "Suggestions for the proposal."

    People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line, thus choosing one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues may prove more effective. Be aware of making your subject line too long. 

    1. Use Introduction, Body, and Closing in your email. 


    The opening of a formal email often requires the sender to introduce themselves. In contrast, informal emails are sent to someone you know, and the introduction isn't needed. 


    The body of an email typically elaborates on the purpose of the email. It should contain detailed information so the receiver knows exactly how they should respond or act. Remember, if your reader isn't familiar with you, he/she may not be familiar with your topic. You don't want your email recipient to misunderstand an important point. 

    If there are several points to be made, make sure they are: 


    • Bulleted 

    OR separated in a clear way so your points are easily digestible. 

    Reading an email shouldn’t feel like you are doing a hard math problem. Before you click send, do some extra work for your reader. Try rewording complex thoughts into simpler ideas. And please, for the sake of your reader, limit how many “hard” concepts you cram into each email

    One last note: Break apart long paragraphs and sentences. Look at how newspapers and magazines break up their contents. Their articles tend to be only one to three sentences long with white space between each paragraph. If you catch yourself writing long, run-on sentences. Break. Them. Up. 


    Since the email closing is the last thing your recipient looks at, your email closing can leave a lasting impression.

    A good formal email closing also reminds the reader who you are since it should include your full name, contact information, and title (if appropriate). 

    1. Think twice before hitting "reply all."

    No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting "reply all" unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.

    1. Use professional salutations. 

    Don't use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, "Hey you guys," "Yo," or "Hi folks."

    The relaxed nature of our writing should not affect the salutation in an email. “Hey” is a very informal salutation and generally should not be used in the workplace. And “Yo” is not okay either. Use “Hi” or “Hello” instead.

    Also, refrain shortening anyone's name. Say "Hi Michael," unless you're certain he prefers to be called "Mike."

    1. Use exclamation points sparingly.

    If you choose to use an exclamation point, use only one to convey excitement.

    According to experts, "People sometimes get carried away and put a number of exclamation points at the end of their sentences. The result can appear too emotional or immature...Exclamation points should be used sparingly in writing."

    1. Be cautious with humor. 

    Humor can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions. In a professional exchange, it's better to leave humor out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Also, something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else.

    Something perceived as funny when spoken may come across very differently when conveyed in writing. When in doubt, leave it out.

    1. Reply to your emails — even if the email wasn't intended for you.

    It's difficult to reply to every email message ever sent to you, but you should try to. This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. A reply isn't necessary but serves as good email etiquette, especially if this person works in the same company or industry as you.

    Here's an example reply: "I know you're very busy, but I don't think you meant to send this email to me. I wanted to let you know so you can send it to the correct person."

    1. Proofread every message.

    Your mistakes won't go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. And, depending upon the recipient, you may be judged for making them.

    Don't rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off. 

    Bonus tip: Although spell-checkers won’t catch every mistake, they can still be helpful. If you’re not using it already, Grammarly is a tool to help boost your spelling, sentence structure, and grammar.

    1. Add the email address last.

    You don't want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message. When you are replying to a message, it's a good precaution to delete the recipient's address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.

    1. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.

    Finally, pay careful attention when typing a name from your address book on the email's "To" line. It's easy to select the wrong name, which can be embarrassing to you and to the person who receives the email by mistake.

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