Email is a powerful tool — use it wisely.
If you already get more business emails than you care to open, read, and respond to, you're definitely not alone. According to Statista, roughly 281 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2018 — and the figure is expected to increase to over 347 billion daily emails by 2023.
Emails are a part of business, for both employed professionals and job seekers alike. Since most people are being inundated with emails every day, you want to do everything you can to ensure that the emails you send get read. From a respectful email greeting to a professional email format, writing well can make a big difference. So read on for professional email etiquette tips that will increase the odds of your emails being read rather than trashed.
1. Specify your subject line
Title your email subject lines in such a way that the recipient immediately knows what the message is actually about.
For instance, if you're emailing to inform a colleague about a specific meeting, you can title your email something like, “Info about budget meeting.” If you're sending an email to inform a co-worker about an impromptu meeting, you might title the email something like, “Meeting in the conference room at 2 p.m. today.” All in all, you want your title to get to the point right away.
2. Use a professional email address
Proper email etiquette calls for sending emails from your business email address, rather than a personal email address. Using a personal email address for business purposes can be seen as unprofessional by some, especially if you're discussing confidential matters. Also, by keeping your business and personal email separate, you are ensuring that nothing urgent gets lost amid spam emails, marketing messages, and other personal communications.
3. Use professional email greetings
While it may be tempting to use informal salutations when emailing associates and friends at work, you should use the same professional greetings you typically would if writing business correspondence with pen and paper. So think "Hello" rather than "Hey" to set the correct tone for your conversation.
Other examples of greetings you can use include:
How are you?
Hope this email finds you well,
4. (Mostly) avoid “reply all”
It's usually a good idea to forego the temptation to hit the “reply all” option when sending professional emails.
Proper email etiquette aside, it can be quite annoying for people to be included in a group email if the content of the message has nothing to do with them. So be considerate and only hit “reply all” if the message would be of interest to all of the recipients.
Another way to avoid spamming people with unwanted emails? Utilize the polite alternative of moving to BCC. This means that if someone were to “reply all” to a message with both CC'ed and BCC'ed parties, only the CC'ed parties would receive the reply. By moving someone to BCC, you are keeping the conversation going without that person — sparing them emails they don't need to read. Just make sure you inform them that you will be BCC'ing them beforehand; you don't want to kick someone off the email thread without being transparent.
5. Proofread / spell check
Sometimes people pay less attention to spelling and grammar when composing emails than when writing actual letters, which is the way business correspondence was traditionally done. But the truth is that proper spelling and grammar still counts, even in the virtual world. After writing your email, read it out loud to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors, as they could overshadow your message. The reason for reading it out loud is that sometimes your ears will catch something that your eyes skim over.
6. Keep it short and sweet
When it comes to your business emails, the shorter the better. Keeping your emails concise and to the point means not only less time spent crafting your email, but also a timely response from the person you emailed. Trust us — no one wants to read a novel in their inbox.
7. Acknowledge emails
With business email etiquette, it's always a good idea to send a response, regardless of if the person emailing you requests one. You should not only acknowledge all emails, but also do so in a timely fashion. Aim for within 1 or 2 business days, but prioritize emails that require your attention for another party to move forward with an action.
This sort of courtesy is not always extended, and you'll be surprised at how much your professionalism can set you apart.
8. Avoid all caps
Using all capital letters in written communication is like shouting in a face-to-face conversation — and no one likes to be yelled at. So it's usually not appropriate or proper email etiquette to employ all caps in order to convey your message.
If you know what you want to say, let your words show how you feel and leave the caps lock button alone. One obvious exception would be if you're using acronyms or initialisms.
Examples of common business acronyms and initialisms in professional emails:
ASAP (as soon as possible)
FYI (for your information)
BTW (by the way)
EOD (end of day)
COB (close of business)
N/A (not available)
COD (cash on delivery)
TBD (to be determined)
KPI (key performance indicator)
EOM (end of message)
WFH (work from home)
OOO (out of office)
YTD (year to date)
9. Attach carefully
In the event that you need to send large attachments, you should first ask the intended recipient whether or not doing so is OK. Assuming you get the go-ahead, you should use a program to compress or zip the attachment so that it takes up less space in the recipient's email inbox. It's also a good idea to let the recipient know when you plan to send the attachment.
Another great alternative to email attachments is sending links to files that are hosted using cloud storage such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Not only will this take up a lot less space, but it will also allow you to host multiple files and stay organized. Instead of leafing through emails and finding the right attachments, you and your co-workers can have everything in one place. Plus, most cloud storage providers are free up to a certain GB, so you won't break the bank.
10. Double-check the email address
When it comes to business matters, the last thing you want is to send an email to the wrong person. That's why you should double-check the recipient's info before hitting the “send” button. If you make a habit of verifying the receiver's info, you'll avoid making these mistakes.
Some email providers, such as Gmail, also offer a feature called “Undo Send.” Upon hitting send the first time, an option will appear at the bottom of your browser window asking you if you want to undo this action before it permanently sends. If you accidentally added the wrong person, this is a life-changer. Instead of pinging them with an email not meant for their eyes, you get another chance to send it to the right person without causing any harm.
11. Include a signature
It's a good idea to have an email signature as a component of your corporate identity. It will make your emails come off looking more legitimate and professional. In fact, you can look at your email signature as the digital equivalent of your business card. That said, you want your email signature to be as properly formatted as your printed business card. So drop the multiple font types and go for standardization to present a nice, professional image. Even with an email signature, you should still close your message with a professional sign off.
Examples of professional email sign offs include:
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Tone of voice
As a final note, consider your overall tone while drafting and again while editing your email. You generally want to come across as polite, professional, and helpful. Using short sentences may indicate you're very busy, or that you are angry. Using many exclamation points may indicate that you are very excited, or unprofessional when used in excess.
Your tone of voice should match your intent. When communicating without visual cues like expressions and volume, it can be easy to misunderstand and to be misunderstood. Generally, it is best to be clear and concise. Read your email carefully before sending it--after it is error free--while trying to put yourself in the shoes of your recipient. Is it clear what you are asking? Can you identify any phrasing that might be ambiguous? Can you anticipate questions that may come up? Are you confident that this person has the correct amount of information they need? Checking for clarity before you click send will cut down on the time you spend responding to messages in the long run.
Professional email examples
If you're not sure of the right thing to say in your next email, we've got examples and email templates for these common professional situations:
As you can see, there's quite a bit to think about when it comes to email etiquette at work. Email in the workplace is a fact of life, and there is research that suggests that this will be the case in the years ahead as businesses continue to rely on emails to communicate both internally and externally. What this means is that you need to learn how to use email effectively, particularly if you want your messages to be read rather than deleted.
Maintaining a professional image includes communicating properly, and that, of course, includes emails. Email is a powerful, professional tool, both in the workplace and for networking, and these email etiquette tips will give you a good start.
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