Business, Career, Tech/Software

How to use email etiquette correctly: the 4 basic rules

How to use email etiquette

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We guides you through how to use email etiquette correctly, outlining the basic email etiquette rules, why you need to use them, and how they lead to more professional email communication.

Given that as a society we’ve been writing emails for decades, you would’ve thought that we all now know how to write them effectively, efficiently and with the utmost care taken over the etiquette we use. Sadly this isn’t the case.

Whereas the use of email started out as a great technological adventure now it’s something we all do countless times a day. This has led to the very nature of receiving an email being perfunctory and as such the messages you send out need to hit the nail on the head, lest they be of no use to anyone at all.

How to use email etiquette correctly: the 4 key rules

Here are a few simple rules to help improve your email efficiency as well as offering some etiquette advice into the bargain.

Dial down the humor

Somewhere along the line emails became incredibly informal, and not in a good way. With some ‘forward thinking’ businesses it’s become the norm to communicate with clients in an off-hand familial way. This isn’t always the right path to take and as such, as a general rule, we’d suggest you elect to be less easy-going with your tone of voice when emailing on behalf of your employers.

This is also the case when you are emailing within your own company, aside from those you consider good friends. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when conducting an email correspondence. 

Yes, being informal, and perhaps even humorous, can relax the receiver of the email you are sending but in many ways sends out the wrong message as a whole. Therefore we suggest you try to be a tad relaxed in your communication while keeping things straightforward and firm.

Use accurate subject lines

Don’t you hate it when you receive an email with a misleading subject line. Clearly this strategy has its place and that place is for cold-calling and spam messaging. Outside these functions your email subject lines should be clear, unambiguous, and most important of all, accurate.

Don’t CC everyone!

If you were at a party and wanted to share some information with an individual, would you rip out the electric cord that was connected to the sound system, grab the mic from the DJ and then shout at the top of your lungs so that everyone present in the club knew your business? Clearly the answer is no.

There is pretty much no good reason to copy your entire company to an email. Even if the news you wish to impart is glorious and of use to all, you shouldn’t be sending any information in such a generalistic manner.

Even if you are a company CEO and wanted to ‘shout out’ to ALL your employees, we still wouldn’t recommend CCing everyone. One, it looks impersonal (kind of like a Hollywood star stamping his autograph rather than using a pen and individually signing a film poster) and two, it reeks of a type of lack of organizational awareness. 

If you key news to spread to the masses, do so via your direct line managers so they can feed the message along.

Now there is of course a difference between cc and bcc, when it comes to widespread communication (with cc going to all and sundry with all parties being aware of who’s on the all-important list, and bcc being a ‘blind carbon copy’ that each individual is unaware of who else is being looped into a conversation). 

However the rule is pretty much the same. Keep your communication channels open to those that are relevant, and not entire sections of people who may, or may not, be interested in your email.

Reply promptly

Back in the day if you wanted your workplace, or business, to appear busy you would allow the phone to ring a couple of times before you reached to pick-up, and therefore in some unknown fashion giving the impression that you are a successful organization where time is money.

This plan of action when responding to emails can be infuriating to the person who is waiting for a response to their email. This is applicable both for internal emails and those going to clients and customers. 

A key part of any internet-facing company is the speed, and effectiveness, of the customer support mechanisms in place. Therefore you shouldn’t leave anyone waiting any longer than is reasonable.

This rule of thumb should apply to your work colleagues also. In many ways a simple email responding stating you’ve received the email and are working on delivering the response required, but explaining it may take some time.

Acknowledgement is key both with customers and co-workers. Anything less than that will leave you either looking rude or inefficient. And no one wants that, do they?