16 Do’s and Don’ts of Email Etiquette
One of the quickest ways to lose a potential or current customer who has contacted you through email, or you contact through email is to use bad email etiquette. It is very easy to leave an unprofessional perception of you and your company simply by the way you write and respond to emails. The words you write will form an image of who you are in the mind of the reader. The reader cannot see the expressions on your face, or hear the tone of your voice to determine how you mean the communication. You may mean something one way, and if you said it in person, it probably would have been taken the way you expected. However, email readers are not in person and it is easy to mistake the emotion of the communication. It is easy to blow it with email without proper email etiquette.
Email Etiquette Do’s
- Use a professional greeting. “Hello (name)” is professional. “Howdy”, “Yo”, “What’s Up”, etc is not. Formal professional is “Dear (name)”.
- Address the person by their name especially with the first communication contact. If somebody sends you an email and you respond with a comment or answer to their question without using their name you will come off as unprofessional or even rude.
- Have a subject line that reflects the content of the email. Having no subject line, sending an email by clicking reply to an old email that has a subject line that has nothing to so with the content, not only is it unprofessional, it is hard to catalog and find for later use. It is better to create a new email with a proper subject line than it is to simply reply to an older email the customer may have sent, and add content to that one that has nothing to do with the subject.
- Take a minute to read what you wrote before you hit the send button. Catch those mistakes before you send.
- Use spell-check before you send. You don’t want to sound uneducated when you write emails.
- Use all caps sparingly. It is OK to ALL CAP a word or two that you want to bring attention too. All caps for the entire email is considered shouting and rude.
- Make sure to write the content of your email as if the person on the other end knows nothing. Don’t assume they will know what you are talking about. Spell it out for them.
- The first contact should have a signature. That would be your name, name of your company, phone number if relevant, link to your website if relevant, and you can include an address. Follow-up replies to emails don’t require a signature and just causes clutter.
- Check your inbox every business day. Multiple times a day if you get a lot of business emails. Old stale leads do you no good.
- Respond to emails in a timely manner whenever possible. Try to respond the the same day if at all possible. Failing to respond in a timely manner only gives the potential customer time to find a competitor who will respond in a timely manner.
Email Etiquette Don’ts
- Don’t send angry or flippant emails. If you are angry at the time you are writing the email, put in in your draft folder until you later when you are calmed down.
- Don’t include sensitive personal or confidential information in emails without permission.
- Don’t issue an order in the subject line. “Please do this ASAP!” is an example. That subject line has nothing to do with the content of the message. Remember, let the subject line reflect the content of the message. The the content contains a task, let the subject line reflect the task.
- If you would be uncomfortable seeing what is in your email on a billboard on the side of the road, don’t put it in the email! Remember, once you hit that send button, it is out there and no taking it back.
- We live in a text message generation. Be careful not to write emails like you would a text message. One liners, abbreviations, and emoticons are acceptable way to communicate in text message. They do not translate well in business emails.
- Don’t use one-liners or single word replies. Be thoughtful and give a proper response. One-liners and single word replies may be acceptable within internal company communications, but will come off as unprofessional to potential customer.
If you use a little common sense, professionalism, and courtesy with your email communications, you should very rarely have issues. Remember that the email is going to form a picture of you in the reader’s mind. Whether good or bad, it’s a perception that will happen. The saying “first impressions count”, is doubly true with email.