Top Tips On Email Etiquette

Email is an essential communications tool for any business.

Writing and sending emails is a quick, easy and cost-free methods of communicating with one another. Unfortunately, if email systems are used without discipline and rules of etiquette they can hinder good communications by causing frustration and misunderstandings.

So, here are 20 top tips to ensure you, and those you are sending emails to, can make the most out of using email. Happy emailing!

Email style, content and format

  1. Keep emails short, concise and to the point – recipients find it harder to read on screen than in print so to aid reading use short paragraphs with line spaces between them and avoid long sentences. Recipients also view emails as a quick medium, if the email you send is too long chances are you will either put them off or they will miss some of the information you want to put across.
  1. Always use subject headings but keep them short and meaningful – if the subject heading is absent, too long or too vague you will not grab the attention of the recipient.
  1. Be careful with formatting – the recipient may not be able to view your formatting or might see different fonts that you had intended. Use colours sparingly and make sure that they are easy to read.
  1. Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation – especially when sending more formal emails to different groups of staff.
  1. Do not write in capitals – this is often interpreted as shouting or ordering people around (underlining and putting text in bold has a similar affect).
  1. Read the email before you send it – we tend to type emails quickly, which can lead to errors. Sloppily written emails are not as effective as carefully written ones and can cause confusion and misunderstanding.
  1. Take care with abbreviations – don’t assume that recipients will know what they mean.
  1. Answer all questions and pre-empt further questions – avoiding more emails and potential frustration.
  1. Do not attach unnecessary files – this can annoy recipients especially if the files are large and they are on slow dial-up connections. Rather include a link to the document placed on the intranet.
  1. Don’t leave out the message thread – but always consider whether you need to include it. If you are in discussion, keeping the background information will be a reminder for you and others on the topic at hand.
  1. Make use of the automatic signature feature – letting recipients know who you are, your position, where you are based and your telephone number helps put the message you are sending in context and provides further contact details.

Email usage

  1. Do not overuse the high priority option – unless the message is essential, using the exclamation mark comes across as aggressive. Similarly avoid using the words urgent and important unless they really are.
  1. Use cc: and bcc: fields sparingly – do not use unless the cc: or bcc: recipient knows why they are receiving a copy of the message, as this can be confusing and they might not know if they have to react to the message. Bcc: can be useful when you don’t want recipients to have access to email addresses.
  1. Do not overuse Reply to All – before you click on Reply to All ask yourself, is everyone interested in hearing what I have to say.
  1. Avoid using request deliver and read receipts – this could annoy your recipient before the message has even been read, and often recipients have blocked the function or do not have the software to support it so it will not work.
  1. Do not recall a message – chances are some have already read the message and this can cause confusion, it is better to send another email to say that you’ve made a mistake.
  1. Do not send emails if you need an immediate response – many staff are out and about and may not pick up your email for a day or two. In urgent cases give the individual a call.
  1. Do use your Out of Office function – if you are away from your computer for a day or more, it is important that you let those that are trying to contact you know. 
  1. Don’t send or forward emails containing libellous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks – see your Personal Computers and Electronic Communications Policy.
  1. Always consider whether there’s a better way – it might be better to make a phone call or walk round to see the person you are intending to email, face-to-face or verbal contact is more personal and often a more effective method of communication.

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