The term “email etiquette‘ is self-explanatory, but let’s define it again. Using the professional setting, email etiquette is a set of guidelines or protocols that you should follow when drafting an email or responding to one. A poorly written email reflects badly on you; you may come across as someone who is in a hurry or doesn’t know the basic grammar rules.
To avoid these undesirable perceptions, apply the following tips to your daily emailing routine. These rules might seem too obvious at first, but you’ll be surprised to see how often you (or the person you’re emailing) makes these mistakes.
1. Use an Appropriate Email Address
Always use your work email address as a part of all internal communications at your firm. You can use your email when reaching out to professionals outside your company for an interview or a coffee chat. Include your first name in the email ID, instead of your pet name or simple words or phrases like “xoxo,” “partyanimal,” etc.
2. Inhale, Exhale
Occasionally, you will receive an email that may test your patience. Reject your instinct to type the first few angry thoughts that enter your mind. Take a moment to cool down before sending a rash email that you’ll only regret later. Call the person in question if the matter is urgent.
3. Use Occasion-appropriate Greetings
The email etiquette meaning here is to take a few seconds to type out a formal greeting like “Happy Friday,” “hope you’re well,” etc. at the beginning and a “thanks/thank you” at the end. Also, never leave the subject line empty.
4. Remind Yourself to Proofread
Proofreading only takes a few seconds, so it is surprising to see when someone addresses you by the wrong name, misspells your name, or sends you an email that isn’t for you. Some people have the same name within large companies – yet another reason to double-check before pressing send. The lesson here is to proofread your email multiple times, especially if it is an important one.
5. Be Concise
Write short emails. This email etiquette meaning is that if you find yourself typing an extended essay, use it as a sign to arrange a call or meeting instead. Value the recipient’s and your time by getting to the point by using the least number of words possible.
6. Respond on Time
Type your response and hit send as soon as possible (and this varies from person to person, considering their workload). This doesn’t mean that you write a quick but inappropriate response. When you need more time, the ideal email etiquette lets the person know that you have received the email and get back to them with the details at the earliest.
- Team members – The emails in this category are high priority and time-bound (in most cases). So follow proper email etiquette and respond within 12 to 14 hours.
- Other colleagues – For people outside your direct team, let them know that you have received their message and get back to them when you can or just respond within the first 24 hours.
- Outside your firm professionals – This category of emails in the inbox can be at the bottom of your priority list. Don’t be pressured to respond quickly unless the subject line says ‘urgent/time-bound’ or is from a high priority professional.
7. Provide a Call to Action Each Time
Mention the deadline for the task, if there is one. If there is none, mention that as well. Make the purpose of your email clear – Are you asking a question? Are you assigning the recipient a task? Are you sharing the email to keep the person in the loop, with no need for a response? State it. Additionally, if it is a set of tasks you want to be completed, state it at the very beginning of the email. This email etiquette’s meaning is to clarify the purpose of your email.
8. Provide Context
If you’re emailing someone for the first time, the correct email etiquette is to add a relevant-to-recipient detail like the networking event you met at or the person’s name that connected you. Even when emailing someone at work, mention the exact project you’re referring to (“I would like to discuss the next steps for XYZ project”)
9. Updated Signature
Your signature should always include the latest details like your full name, title, company name, and phone number. The email etiquette meaning is that you provide the most updated information about yourself to anyone receiving your email.
10. Remember Tip #5?
You not only have to be concise but also specific. Don’t ask broad or open-ended questions because you might not get the answer you’re looking for. Instead of “what are your thoughts on the presentation,” directly ask, “Should I add more details about X on slide 16”?
11. Clarity is Key
Any person who follows proper email etiquette knows the power of bullet points or a list. It is more visually appealing than big paragraphs and is easier to follow. Use the ‘bold’ option sparingly, but do use it when something needs to be emphasized.
12. Thread Etiquette
There is an email etiquette meaning for email threads. Never begin a new topic on an existing thread – always start a new one. Don’t jump on the bandwagon of “this is awesome” if more than ten people have already said so. Additionally, shorten your links or add hyperlinks to avoid link clutter.
13. Following up
Another component of proper email etiquette is to follow-up with the concerned person after a week, either by forwarding them the original email or typing out a new one. Sending one in less than 48 hours is frowned upon. Cap your follow-up emails for a single person to three times.
Attach documents in the PDF format unless told to do otherwise. Always attach the file before writing the body text or filling in the “to” field. This way, you’ll never send a “sorry, forgot the attachment” email. Zip a large attachment before emailing it.
Additional tip: If you’re adding someone to an email thread, either reattach the attachment or forward the original email containing the person’s attachment.
15. Salutations Matter
There are three instances when you use different salutations.
- Casual setting – When you know the recipient personally, or the company has a relaxed environment, feel free to use hi, good morning/afternoon, or directly address the person by just their name. ‘Hey’ can be considered overly casual, so if the recipient uses it first, you can reply accordingly.
- Formal setting – When emailing someone for the first time or working in a more traditional industry, use ‘dear (insert name),’ not dear sir/madam.
- Big no-no – Do not use ‘yo,’ ‘hey!’, ‘gentlemen,’ and ‘all’ – they sound either too friendly, informal, or distant.
Correct email etiquette meaning dictates a colon in a formal email and a dash in a casual email.
Additionally, never address the person by the shortened version of their name unless they suggest you do so or mentioned in their signature. For instance, use the name Shivesh instead of Shiv and Michael instead of Mike.
16. Use Appropriate Sign-off Messages
The note that you end your email also matters.
- Casual setting – Thanks, Best, Cheers, Talk soon, Looking forward to the next steps, Enjoy the weekend
- Formal setting – Thank you for your time, have a wonderful day/weekend
- Big no-no – warmly, xoxo, cordially
17. Use Correct Punctuation
You might be excited after seeing an email’s contents, but you don’t have to convey that by using multiple exclamation points. Let email etiquette meaning remind you that numerous exclamation points come across as immature. Instead, use it only where needed – “Congratulations!” and “Have a good weekend!”
Similarly, don’t pack your email with question marks. It can become overwhelming for the receiver and takes away attention from the central question/topic concerned. Proper email etiquette also includes using the rules you learned as a young kid, such as capitalization, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.
18. Control the Humor
Cracking a joke doesn’t land the same when delivered through a text message or email as it does when delivered in-person. Your humor and intention can be easily misinterpreted. Emails don’t capture your (face or body) expressions or tone, so stick to joking on a call or face-to-face meeting.
19. Be Mindful of Cultural Differences and Their Implications
When you work at a global firm, emailing someone from a different culture is high. While Japanese and Chinese like to interact before doing business personally, Germans and Americans are direct and jump right into business. The email etiquette’s meaning is to understand the tone and purpose of the one emailing you.
By reading these 19 actionable tips, you have taken the first step towards bettering the soft skill of communication. Soft skills are the ying to the yang of technical knowledge. Improve your technical expertise with the help of upGrad. Whether you are fascinated with machine learning and AI or interested in enrolling in an MBA program, upGrad has you covered.