10 Tips for Better Email Etiquette

Email is the primary method of communication in the workplace and an integral part of our lives. Pew Internet research suggests that about 62% of all employed Americans have Internet access and 98% of those use email on the job. In total, 57 million employees use email for work. 78% of workers who use email send ten or fewer messages on the average day and 11% send more than 20. From my experiences and stories from my friends and clients, I’ve heard on countless occasions that people send inappropriate emails. They don’t spell check, aren’t action oriented and aren’t specific enough. What people don’t consider is that emails can easily be forwarded and it can leave a bad impression if you aren’t putting your best foot forward by having the proper etiquette. Email etiquette is especially important today when so many employees are working remotely and face-time has been replaced by email-time. Your emails can have a major impact on your career success at your company and here are ten tips to write better emails:

1. Make sure your message is simple and clear. Instead of trying to writer longer emails so they appear more important, narrow them down and get rid of jargon. Focus on what the person receiving the email is looking for and avoid everything else. This is especially important because emails are read on mobile phones over desktop computers these days so it takes longer to scroll down.

2. Use proper spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you are misspelling words in your emails, people will pick that up and it will hurt your reputation and credibility. If your email provider doesn’t have automatic “spell check” then you should copy and paste the email text into Microsoft Word to verify that everything is spelled correctly.

3. Respond to emails in a timely manner. After you receive an email, don’t tuck it away. The faster you respond, the better. I’ve learned this from experience and typically respond immediately especially if it’s something really important. The receiver will appreciate the fast response and you will be perceived as more dependable.

4. Make it action oriented. If you aren’t pushing someone into action through your email, then what’s the point of even writing one? Your goal should be to end your email with an “action item” so that the receiver knows exactly what to do after reading it.

5. Beware of the “reply all” button. Try not to hit “reply all” after receiving an email unless you’re positive that the entire team needs to have that information. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time because they are probably occupied with their own projects.

6. Make the subject line grabbing. Your co-workers receive a lot of email so make sure your email stands out and they read it. People browse subject lines so concentrate on making your subject line interesting and appealing to the people you are sending the email to.

7. Know your audience. If you’re emailing a co-worker who is also a friend, then you can be more casual than if you’re emailing an executive you’ve never met before. It’s important that you aren’t too casual though because your friend could potentially forward your email to someone who you haven’t met yet and that could appear unprofessional.

8. Don’t hide behind your email. Sometimes you have to pick up the phone or go to your co-workers office. If you’re asking for a raise or you aren’t getting along with your co-worker, then don’t email your manager. Schedule a meeting with them and talk it out in person.

9. Use an “out of office” reply when necessary. When you’re on vacation or in training, always make sure you have an away message so that people know where you are and who to contact in your absence. This not only looks professional but can help you defer some requests to others who can support you and solve problems on your behalf.

10. Review the email before you send it in the first place. If you read your email at least twice before you send it, you will naturally send better emails. Those who just fire off emails without reviewing them first usually make mistakes and look bad in the process.


Photo Credit © ichristianwoman

Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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