The world of email does have its own rules, but most of these rules are grounded in traditional etiquette standards of being courteous, reciprocating, and answering promptly. The Golden Rule of “Doing onto Others” also applies to email etiquette. But most of all, thinking before you compose your next email may be the one thing that will save you from future aggravation and embarrassment.
Before you sit down to compose your next email, ask yourself who you are sending your email to? Is it a boss, a peer, someone you need a favor from, your assistant, or members of your organization?
Once you have your reader in mind, your message’s tone and content follows suit. But if your message is a complicated one or if it involves some negative news, you should state what you have to say in person or by giving a phone call.
Writing the subject line
Always align your subject line to your subject, so that your sender knows exactly what to expect (and your message’s less likely to go into the Spam file).
Here’s an example of a bad subject line:
Here’s an example of a good subject line :. Do you see the difference? Be as specific as you can in the subject line – you can even combine subjects with a slash mark and section the email into bullet points if it’s long or you need your recipient to take action.
To really save some time, you can use the subject line as the email itself, but if you do, write EOM (end of message) after your message in the subject line.
The to:, cc: and bcc: lines
Don’t put too many people in the to: line; instead use the cc: line. Always check your “to:” line so that you’re not sending your message to everyone on the list!
The cc: line lets more people in on the loop; but this option can have negative consequences if you as a customer cc:s everyone in the chain of command on a complaint. But if you cc: a lot of people and your recipient’s boss on a compliment, then that’s a very smart move and will bring you a lot of goodwill.
For the bcc: line be careful not to “Reply All” on a bcc! The bcc: usually informs without escalating, but it can be very sneaky – please handle it with care.
All about greetings and closings
It’s a good idea to go formal with Mr./Ms. until the sender closes with his/her first name. Try to mirror what the other person does. Mirroring also works with email length and content.
For your closings, “sincerely” is very formal. Middle of the road closings include “best,” “all best,” “as ever,” “till then,” “warm regards,” and “yours.”
Style, formatting and grammar
Use white space as often as possible, especially if you’re asking for two different things and don’t bury your requests in the middle of paragraphs. You can also separate and highlight information by typing in different colors or bolding your points so you establish an “eye trail” for your recipient.
As for grammar, a little laxness is allowed on email sent from handhelds, but still watch your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It’s always a good idea to run the spell check function. And if you’re sending a very important email, save it in the draft folder, wait a day or a few hours and then send. You may find that you need to cut or add to that email to make your communication as effective as possible.
And finally – show kindness, professionalism and courtesy in all of your email exchanges!