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Email Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Professional Emails

As a working professional, you are most likely to send and receive emails on a daily basis. While this might seem a no-brainer Ad hoc task, it comes off as pivotal in your work because you have to be careful about setting the right tone and making sure you are understood. Thus, it’s a prerequisite to know the proper email etiquette by knowing the dos and don’ts of writing these emails.

Reading through and responding back to emails take up lots of time for a working individual—in fact, 28% of an average workweek is spent on doing these tasks according to a study from International Data Corporation (IDC).

As much as anyone wants to save time and increase productivity at work, one should not compromise professionalism to speed. It’s a part of your job to maintain the respectability of your own sake and of course, the company you are working for. To help you instill proper email etiquette, here are the dos and don’ts to remember when writing emails.

Do’s

Remember these mandatory points for a well-explained and reputable email.

1. Ensure your subject is clear.

Besides the sender, the recipients will look at the subject line first upon receiving an email. You want to catch their attention to become a priority among a pile of unread messages. You can do this by making sure your subject line is clear and direct to the point. Skip all the vagueness and just get right to the business.

2. Use appropriate salutations.

No matter how much you personally know professional connections, you should never skip the proper way of addressing them. Terms such as “hey,” “yo,” or other informal salutations are beyond unacceptable. You can try using “Hello,” “Dear,” “Good day,” or even “hi” to exude civility. You don’t want to lose the respect that your recipients have to you, do you?

3. Give an introduction.

When reaching out to customers, clients, partners, or other connections for the first time, it’s common courtesy to introduce oneself prior to diving into the intent of your message.

You can do this with the common line, “Dear Ms./Mr. (Surname of the recipient), this is (your name), (your position) of (your company reaching out…)”

4. Tweak your tone.

Knowing the culture and the environment where the recipient belongs to is key to setting how you talk to them. Always remember that you want to be perceived as professional but personable. You should avoid any exaggerated statements and keep your points understandable to prevent misinterpretations.

 

5. Highlight important details.

When giving out important announcements or details, you can highlight phrases by making the characters bold, italicized, or even underlined. This practice makes it easier to find and remember the most important details of your message. 

6. Make use of bullet points for neatness.

Bullet points help your email be more readable. It will lessen the probability of any rereading as a structured message with bullet points makes it easier to get to the point and be remembered. These points are useful when breaking down a list, recap, and other subjects that can be compiled into a list instead of chunky paragraphs.

7. Mind the length of your email.

A lengthy email is grueling to read for anyone’s perspective. Try to be concise and direct to the point with your message. If you have to cover a wide range of subjects in one mail, cut down the unnecessary fluff. You don’t want your reader to get bored and confused about which information is important to them.

8. Double-check your attachments.

Oftentimes, attachments are mentioned but seem to be missing. Don’t fall into the trap of following up an email because you forgot to link the attachments. Always double-check if the attachments are successfully uploaded.

Also, when you put an attachment to your email, make sure that you mention it at the end of the email. This is to prevent readers from stopping and forgetting to read the rest of the content. Just cover everything you want to talk about before presenting any attached file.

9. Proofread.

They say the best proofreading you’ll ever do is the one after hitting the “send” button. Don’t be fooled into doing that! You must do your proofreading before sending anything. Check the correctness of grammar, punctuation marks, tone, spelling and all other details to avoid being deemed as unprofessional.

10. Add your signature at the end of the email.

Set up your email with a default signature at the end containing your name, job position, company, contact number and/or email address. This way, they won’t have trouble finding ways to reach you. Also, this shows who you are and what business you have in relation to them.

11. Know the culture.

There may be times that’ll require you to communicate with an offshore party. When this happens, it counts to consider their culture in writing your emails. For example, the Japanese frequently greet according to the time of the year in their emails’ first sentence. You can follow this custom if you want to get a warm reply.

On another note, culture doesn’t necessarily pertain to indirect cultures. It could be about the internal office culture. If the recipients are more light-hearted, you may get away with less formal yet still professional emails.

12. Be concise.

Always keep your emails short and sweet. Although they should not be as brief as text messages, emails should always be a quick form of business correspondence. Having too long of an email might overwhelm recipients. Worse, they might even forget the whole point due to multiple topics mentioned. So always stay concise and get to the point as much as you can.

13. Use BCC when emailing several people.

The general rule of using bcc in an email is when you don’t want your email thread to become an unintended group chat. So if you want your recipients to avoid unnecessary replies from other recipients, bcc them. They won’t know it, and you can easily tame your inbox when everyone responds on the same thread.

14. Always acknowledge email receipt.

Doesn’t it give you anxiety when people don’t acknowledge your email? Well, it’s a toxic habit that needs banishing. Whether senders ask you to respond or not, it’s customary to let them know you got the message—except when they specifically told you not to reply at all. This is important to avoid leaving them hanging on the end, wondering if you even saw the message.

15. Treat confidentiality with high regard.

In some cases, you will need to include confidential information or resources in your email. You may consider sharing this over the phone or talking in person. This way, the private information is not left in the open for anyone to read. But if you can’t avoid attaching confidential matters, do ask permission to post such along the email body.

16. Write emails backward.

Writing emails backward means that you will insert the call-to-action (CTA) or question in your email’s first line. This strategy will help improve the responses you get since you are telling them your intention right away. Putting your CTA or question at the body or end has a lower chance of acknowledgment since sometimes they lose interest in reading the whole message. So putting things upfront will do the trick of commanding them precisely what to do.

Don’ts

On the other hand, steer clear of these practices to maintain professionalism in your emails.

1. Expect that they know what you are talking about.

Never reply to an email without enough context. When replying to an email trail, kindly give a short overview of what happened in the previous conversations to prevent confusion. Thus, one-liners are a major no-no.

2. Use pun or sarcasm.

Humor doesn’t apply to professional emails—it not only makes you sound informal but also unprofessional. Applying sarcasm and humor doesn’t play well with written context as they can easily be misinterpreted to something offensive.

3. Sprinkle emojis.

Have you ever received a business mail with emoticons in it? No? Well, it’s a no-brainer mortal sin in writing your emails. This is not social media, this is a professional channel so save those hearts and smileys on your next Facebook post. Maintain your professionalism and skip the immature additions. 

4. Overuse exclamation points.

A polished email doesn’t consist of too many exclamation points. It’s informal and it loses the sense of business in communications. You should keep them at bay and steer clear of using informal abbreviations such as LOL, BTW, etc. to cut down on phrases. 

5. Respond when in rage.

There are just times that you will receive messages that will get under your skin. Do not respond back when your emotions are full unless you want to regret the consequences of firing back inappropriate replies. Keep your composure and construct a message with much consideration.

6. Reply to all.

Some emails you receive come with other recipients in it. When responding, directly reply back to the sender and exclude the other recipients unless everyone needs to know what you are about to say.

7. Take too much time before you reply.

Although it is normal to get anxious to reply instantly, you should not let those emails pile up in your inbox. The faster you get through all of them, the better your work efficiency will be. Your timeliness in responding to emails shows your respect for their time. 

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8. Forget the conversation closing.

Let the recipient know if you are waiting for a response from them upon getting the email. If you are not expecting any reply, you can directly say, “No response necessary.” When aligned to meet or be in contact in a while, you can say “See you on the 15th.” And finally, do not neglect the use of closing such as “Best,” “Sincerely,” “Best regards,” “All the best,” and many more to appropriately end the message.

9. Use jargon.

Jargon refers to terms that only members of the same community know. Never use words that may sound new to your recipients unless you are introducing something new. The goal here is to use layman’s terms to avoid miscommunication. The clearer your message is, the more likely you are to get your intended response.

10. Use all caps and silly fonts or colors.

The only acceptable time to use all caps is when mentioning acronyms. Outside of that, you should never use ALL CAPS to write a message. It’s like yelling at your recipients, which is very unprofessional.

Also, avoid using silly fonts and colors that seem very informal. Stick with the default font and don’t add unnecessary emphasis unless it’s intended. You may only underline or bold phrases when there is a need, like for important details.

11. Share information about your used device.

You might notice when you are sending emails through a mobile device; there’s a note at the tail of an email stating what device you’re on. It turns out you can remove this for good. Keeping them attached to your email is unnecessary and adds more fluff to the message.

12. Respond slowly.

We’ve all been there—not knowing what to reply upon receiving an email. While it’s understandable, you also need to consider how crucial quick turnaround is. That said, don’t take too much time overthinking your response. Unanswered emails will accumulate in no time, making you more likely to forget to reply to them.

13. Leave messages unread.

Unread messages are even worse than unanswered emails. Always read your emails, and don’t let your inbox grow. Having too many unread messages shows your laziness to open and even acknowledge them. That’s just unacceptable—unless you are receiving a series of spam emails.

14. Communicate everything via email.

While email holds so much power in business correspondence, it can only do so much for some cases. For instance, you can’t resolve every problem through email. Some may need a more thorough form of communication to ensure clarity over important matters. Some people may even misinterpret your tone when using emails for communicating. Thus, you may also consider using other communication channels for subjects that need extensive attention to detail.

Those are the dos and don’ts you have to comply with when sending business emails. As universal as they may be, the key point to make sure your emails are reputable and well-written is maintaining professionalism in all aspects. You can study about crafting polished professional mails to ease your way to a more effective business email communication. The main takeaway to this is leaving all those mistakes to pave way for better work efficiency. 

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