E-mail Etiquette

Posted: 06/12/2013 in Career

‘By requiring employees to use appropriate, businesslike language in all electronic communications, employers can limit their liability risks and improve the overall effectiveness of the organization’s e-mail and Internet copy in the process’ – Excerpt from ‘Writing Effective E-mail’, by Nancy Flynn and Tom Flynn.

Welcome to the business world and the unlimited means it presents to communicate between departments, team members, business associates and worldwide organizations! Don’t we all have one or more of those tools present and ready at the tip of our fingers in our daily work days? The presence of technology and the limitless possibilities offered by e-mail and other means of communication have made it a must for us to understand the importance of using those tools both effectively and efficiently. On the top of the list comes the use of e-mail as a significant way of written communication. We use e-mails everyday, whether we send, receive or merely read e-mails. The important point to bear in mind while utilizing the benefits of e-mail communication is: “Am I using e-mail communication in the right way from a business perspective?”

Let’s tackle a couple of critical aspects that need to be considered while using e-mails. Always remember that your personal e-mail account that you normally use with friends and family has no pre-set rules and is both flexible and open as per the coziness you share with those you exchange personal e-mails with. To the contrary, business e-mail brings a completely different outline concerning usage. Among those rules are the following:

• Be concise and to the point:
Do not make an e-mail longer than it needs to be. Remember that reading an e-mail is harder than reading printed communications and a long e-mail can be very discouraging to read. If the e-mail you are writing will include important information that you will need to list, try placing this information on a shared drive or a zipped attachment to save the length of the e-mail from being too long.

• Include reliable contact info with your signature:
Make sure that your e-mail signature contains reliable contact information concerning your direct phone, your mobile phone (if you choose to list it) and the address of your employer for courier services. However, be aware that some employers have policies against employees placing individually devised confidentiality notices at the end of their e-mail and/or using multiple colors and fonts in their signatures. Always refer to your employer’s internal policy on the usage of business e-mail.

• Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation:
This is not only important because improper spelling, grammar and punctuation give a bad impression of your company, it is also important for conveying the message properly. E-mails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. More often than not, your e-mail program would have a built in spelling and grammar checker, make sure you have it turned on at all times.

• Do not attach unnecessary files:
By sending large attachments you can annoy receivers and even bring down their e-mail system. Wherever possible try to compress attachments and only send attachments when they are productive. It is always advisable not to send anymore than 3 attachments in the e-mail and that the total size of those attachments shall not reach 1 MB. In case of sending a large attachment along with your e-mail, it would be best if you advise your receiver that the attachment in the e-mail is relatively large in size and urge the receiver to move this e-mail to a personal folder upon receiving it.

• Do not overuse the high priority option:
Some e-mails are high priority and most e-mails are not! Make sure you do not abuse the option of marking your e-mail’s importance as ‘high’. Or, you may end up in a situation in which the content of your e-mail will truly be high and urgent, but your receiver will not consider it as such given the fact that you mark all your e-mails as high importance e-mails!

• Don’t leave out the message thread:
When you reply to an email, you must include the original mail in your reply, in other words click ‘Reply’, instead of ‘New Mail’. Some people say that you must remove the previous message since this has already been sent and is therefore unnecessary. This alleged belief is wrong given the fact that the receiver of your e-mail will probably need the trail to understand the issue under question.

• Do not overuse Reply to All/CC options
Only use Reply to All if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message. Sometimes, when members of the management team or seniors are copied on the e-mail, they would prefer not to be copied on every e-mail exchanged on the subject. In that case, reply to those copied on the e-mail and advise them that you are working on the issue in the e-mail and will get back to them when you finalize it. Then, follow up on that issue with the responsible persons until it is resolved. Finally, e-mail the managers and advise them your feedback. You have no idea how much members of the management team would appreciate this initiative from you given the amount of e-mail traffic they have in their inbox on daily basis!

• Use a meaningful subject:
For instance, if you are inquiring about a particular product or process, it is best to include the name of the product or process under question versus writing in the subject line ‘Product/Process Inquiry’.

• Don’t send or forward emails containing religious, political, offensive, racist or obscene remarks:
Beware that your company reserves the right to monitor the usage of e-mail and that there is a minimum level of professionalism to bear in mind while composing and forwarding e-mails.

There are always rules to follow in the business world. Unlike our personal life, those rules were not made to be bent or broken. To excel in a professional environment, you need to get yourself acquainted with the best possible practices whether adopted by your employer or known universally. You can either use e-mail for your best interest and for the accomplishment of your career goals or you can end up only with the disadvantages of electronic communication. It is all in your hands, use your e-mail with wisdom!


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