In today's increasingly digital era, we could liken the importance of email etiquette to that of table manners. As your inbox is likely flooded with numerous messages each day, there's no question it's the new preferred—and some would say improved—form of correspondence. For that reason, it's crucial to master the art of writing, sending, and responding, as your career (and even personal relationships) can depend on it.
While you're trying to keep up with the fast-paced culture surrounding communication in the workplace today, one quick mistake could make or break your career. In order to avoid a seemingly small but impactful misstep, there are a few key tips to remember before you hit send.
While there are many keys to crafting the perfect message to keep in mind, we've narrowed it down to six essentials elements of email etiquette. From staying out of the spam folder to avoiding an offensive sign-off, find our easy-to-follow email tips below.
Giving your message a super-close look (and even a second full read!) before hitting send is quite possibly the most important tip for mastering the art of emailing. An email filled with errors (grammatical, spelling, or factual) could cause you to lose credibility—and your reader's interest—in a matter of seconds.
Because emails are meant to be efficient (i.e., short and concise in getting the important information across quickly), this step should take just a few extra minutes. Chances are you'll always find a missing word or two. Before you press send and have to do damage control with a follow-up email (no one likes unnecessary messages), read it again. You'll save yourself time and embarrassment, with little effort.
In that vein, you should always be double-checking the recipients as well. We've all been a part of an unintended reply-all, and it's not pretty. Avoid the whole lot of awkwardness involved with replying, copying, or even accidentally emailing the entirely wrong person by skimming that box at the top. It's an oversight that unfortunately happens often—but shouldn't.
MailTime app co-founder Heatherm Huang put it best: "Business moves quickly, and so should your emails." At this point, it's basically understood that most people view their inboxes several times a day (if not all day long while sitting at a desk), so it's assumed that you've received something that was sent the same day, unless you've noted otherwise with an "out of office reply." There are certainly special circumstances that could apply, but for the most part, you should be responding to emails within a respectful amount of time.
If the email topic is something that requires a thoughtful response or information that is not immediately at your disposal, you should follow up with an update to inform the person you're corresponding with so they're aware you have received their message and know you'll be in touch. Think about being on the other end and how you'd like someone to handle the situation if you were awaiting a response. Getting back to someone the same day, even if it's just to confirm receipt, is the best practice.
The first thing your recipient will see (after your email address) is the subject line, which makes it a very important tool for correspondence. If you want your email to be opened—or even seen without ending up in the spam folder—your subject line should be as concise and clear as possible.
Spam is quite common these days, and even messages from close acquaintances could be misinterpreted as junk mail if the subject line looks funny or is cryptic in any way. Avoid any confusion by giving a brief and simple synopsis of the reason for your correspondence in the subject line.
Also, be sure to double-check the spelling and grammar of your subject line, as it can be more difficult to proof than the body of your email. It's important to give it a second look, as you might not want to allude to a forwarded message, which is detailed in the subject line.
We're looking at you, exclamation point lovers! It's okay to use the overwhelmingly popular mark once or twice in a more casual email among friendly co-workers or acquaintances to signify your enthusiasm or appreciation. However, only a single mark should be used at the end of a sentence, as double (or even triple) exclamation points are considered an abuse of use in any setting, grammatically speaking.
Think of it this way: You wouldn't use two periods to end a sentence, so consider the exclamation point in the same vein—one and done. The overuse of this type of punctuation also gives your email a spammy, juvenile look, and it may cause someone to overlook the importance of your message in a more formal context. The best rule of thumb is to use exclamation points sparingly and only when necessary to get your point across—with the right audience.
On the other end of the spectrum is the absence of punctuation, which is also frowned upon. Though email is intended to be an expedited form of communication, always take the time to include punctuation in any written correspondence, which not only signals important contextual cues but also makes your message more clear for the person on the other end.
Your sign-off is extremely important when it comes to professional correspondence—it will reiterate the respect and formality of your intended tone in the email. This can be achieved by ending your email the appropriate way (with sign-offs like "best," "thanks," "regards," etc.), as formal emails should always include some type of sign-off.
Your signature, not only a sign-off, is also imperative when it comes to business correspondence since it will help the right people get in touch with you. If you provide the important and correct contact information, you'll give yourself the best chance of receiving a response when you're contacting someone new. You should always provide your full name, company, email, and, in some cases, phone number so the person you're emailing can easily identify and contact you with quick a search of their inbox.
You're well aware of how easy it is to forward a message in a matter of seconds—all it takes is the click of a button—so just know that everything you put in writing could be shared with an unintended recipient. It's best to keep confidential and/or personal matters offline, to avoid the possibility of it getting into the wrong hands.
Remember emails can also be stored for years, and as time passes and things change (like a shift in your career or relationship), these topics could resurface with a quick search. The bottom line? It's best to keep anything private out of your inbox. Always remember this mantra before you send something highly sensitive over the internet (or anywhere, for that matter).
Which email tip do you find most important?