Email Etiquette – The Do’s and Don’ts!

Coming back from Christmas after an extended break, you make yourself a coffee and sit down to log onto your computer. You’re greeted by a dozen or so emails. In your inbox are a mixture of emails from people you know, people you don’t know, internal emails and external emails. Inappropriate emails, badly written emails, emails you’ve been cc’d into for no apparent reason, emails signed with a kiss, emails littered with LOL’s and smiley faces, abrupt emails, one-liners,… and of course emails with no point to them whatsoever.

Did you know that the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business.

Emails sent in a professional capacity vary considerably.

Do you greet with ‘Hi’ or ‘Dear..’ or just ‘Hello’, or should the latter be saved for someone you are more familiar with? Do you sign off ‘best regards’ or ‘yours sincerely’, or something a bit less formal, ‘best wishes’ or just a good old plain ‘thanks.’ We’ve all received emails from people we don’t know and have never met who sign off their email with a smiley face J, or worse still – a kiss! We all know someone who uses multiple exclamation marks at the end of each sentence!!!!!!!! And that Colleague who USES CAPITAL LETTERS IN EVERY EMAIL WHICH MAKES IT SEEM LIKE THEY’RE SHOUTING AT YOU! Then there’s the ‘misunderstood’ email. You know the one, the rude email with the bad attitude, the email that instantly irks you and sets the tone for the rest of the day.

E-mail is a form of documentary evidence and can be admitted as evidence in court in the same way as can other forms of documentary evidence.

What is the correct email etiquette? Is there one? Should it be like writing a letter? Yet it’s so different from penning a letter, printing it out, writing the envelope and sticking on a stamp. Emails are sent in a hurry, or they can be painstakingly carefully written to ensure every ‘i’ is dotted, and every ‘t’ is crossed. They’re convenient, you can send them to multiple people at the same time, you can even send them to someone just for information – it doesn’t even have to be to them for them to receive it.

“… experts agree that your e-mail behaviour has the potential to sabotage your reputation both personally and professionally”

The convenience of email is also its downfall, less time spent writing an email tends to lead to more mistakes, a lack of attention, and the complete opposite – long, wordy (boring) prose.

Here are our top 5 tips for sending an email in a professional capacity:

Keep it concise and to the point whilst being polite and considerate. What is the purpose of the email, what do you want to get out of it? Avoid long lengthy wordy paragraphs.

Re-read it: check for spelling and grammar changes. If an email you have received has got your back up, write a draft, get a coffee or some fresh air and come back to the email with a fresh head. Emails sent in anger will achieve nothing.

Who does the email need to be sent to? Do you need to cc the whole company in, do you need to cc anyone at all in? Try and keep the recipients of the email to a minimum.

Would it be quicker to make a phone call? Do you need to ask a quick question that requires a one word answer? Try phoning first. If they don’t pick up, then email after.

Remember that not everyone is a writer. Try not to take offence to the tone or language used in an email.

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