There’s nothing doubting the fact that Email has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. And even though people might increasingly prefer things like social networks and instant messaging apps for chatting up with friends these days, the truth remains that when it comes to proper communication, Email is still the preferred medium.
From universities to global corporations, and from students to CEOs, Email is used just about everywhere, and by everyone. That said, almost all of us have multiple email addresses, with one or (more) of the many email providers. But the real question is, are we confirming to the protocol(s) of proper Email usage?
If you’re unsure about the answer, then this article, underlining the basic email etiquettes that everyone should follow, is for you. So without further ado, here they go.
Basic Email Etiquettes
1. Use a professional looking email address
Your email address is often considered to be indicative of your personality. For this reason, it’s important to have a professional looking email address, generally with your first and last names making up the “username” part of it. This is even more important if you intend to use the email address for professional communication (e.g. sending resumes to recruiters, providing work samples to clients).
If the username of your choice is unavailable, you can add a number of your choice (e.g. birth date) to get one. To cite a few examples, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org can be considered good choices. On the other side, use something like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can be pretty sure your emails won’t even be opened by the recipients.
Tip: As much as possible, use a separate email address for all your professional needs. And if you don’t mind shelling out a few bucks, it’s best to go for hosted email with your own domain.
2. Always include a subject, and keep it clear and concise
The subject line is one of the most important components of email, as it immediately provides the recipient an idea of the information that is included in the email. This is why all your emails should have a subject line, even if the content isn’t that much important. Leaving subject line blank is perceived as carelessness on the sender’s part.
Even more importantly, the subject line should be concise and to the point, so the recipient can make out the content of the email as quickly as possible. Few examples are Project report attached, Performance survey – early response solicited, and things like that.
3. Use standard fonts and minimal formatting
No matter how much you like those fancy fonts you have on your PC, they are an absolute no-no when it comes to composing emails. That’s because if you use a non-standard font and it’s not installed on the recipient’s computer, the email’s text won’t appear as intended. This is the reason most email services have only a few standard, serif and sans-serif fonts (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial) available for composing email. And you should stick to them.
Also, keep the formatting in your email as less as possible. Unless you need to emphasize a certain section, line etc. in the email’s content, refrain from using highlights and colors for the text. In fact, the email text’s color should be Black only, as it’s the most legible.
4. Avoid typos, incorrect grammar usage, and punctuation errors
Although not everyone out there is a grammar Nazi, and it’s not criminal to have an unintended typo or two in your emails, incorrect use of language, sentence structure etc., generally gives the recipient(s) a negative impression. So it’s extremely important that you triple-check an email’s subject line, body, and all other textual elements for any inadvertent grammar and punctuation errors (and correct them, if found), before you hit the “Send” button.
What’s more, you should never use multiple punctuation marks (e.g. !!!) in your emails. The same goes for slang words (e.g. LMAO), popular contractions (e.g. Gotcha!), and emoticons. All of these things look highly immature and unprofessional, and are best left for social networks and instant chats only.
Tip: Always take care of how you capitalize the words, sentences etc. in your emails. An email (or anything else, for that matter) should never, ever be composed in ALL CAPS, as it’s considered the Internet equivalent of shouting.
5. Give attachments descriptive names
More often than not, we have to send/receive multiple files as attachments with our emails. While this is pretty necessary, nothing could be worse than receiving an email that’s loaded with numerous randomly, named files (e.g. 022325kjsdgbs.pdf, oldverfileplcheck.doc) that don’t make any sense. So, whenever you send attachments with an email, rename them with some descriptive file names, so that the recipient instantly knows their content, without needing to open them. For example, if you’re sending your resume to a prospective employer, give it a name like CurrentResume_JohnDoe. Simple and easy.
Also, if you intend on sending a large number (e.g. 20) attachments with an email, it’s better to combine them in a Zipped archive first. For even more clarity, you can separately mention details like attachment count, total archive size etc. in the email’s body text.
6. Always include a signature
A signature is necessary for properly closing or ending the email body text. But more importantly, it also lends an “authenticity” to the email, and its content. So all your emails should have your signature included in them. Just create and save a signature in the email’s settings, and it will be automatically added at the end of every email you compose.
Talking about “what” should be included in the signature, it’s something you should decide, as it varies from one person to another. That being said, as a general rule, you can include contact information (e.g. official number, secondary email), as well as links to your social profiles. In a nutshell, a signature should serve as your digital contact card. But don’t overload it with too much unnecessary information.
7. Acknowledge the receipt of emails
Modern day email has advanced so much, that once you hit the “Send” button, you can be 200% certain that it’ll reach the recipient’s inbox, a second or two later. However, as with any technology, email can (and occasionally does) suffer from downtimes too. So, once you receive an email (especially if it’s important), acknowledge its receipt by replying to the sender with a small message.
Even though it’s not possible to acknowledge every email you get, you should try doing that. More importantly, you should acknowledge email that is mistakenly sent to you, as the sender might be awaiting a response from the other side. This will make the sender aware of the mistake, and will also save the email’s actual intended recipient some trouble.
8. Use proper salutations
When talking to people face-to-face, or even on the phone, we always start by greeting them. And the same rule holds true for emails as well, so your emails should always have proper salutations for the recipient(s). Depending on who you’re sending an email, the salutation can be formal (e.g. Dear Mr. Johnson, Professor Keller), or informal (Hello Adam, Hi Jenna). Similarly, the ending (e.g. Regards, Sincerely) must have the same underlying tone as the beginning salutation, as well as the overall message.
It’s worth noting that you should refrain from using extremely informal, and everyday usage salutations (e.g. What’s up?) in emails. It goes without saying that it’s considered pretty unprofessional.
9. Don’t use Reply All every time
There are times when you receive an email that’s also sent to several other recipients (e.g. an important notice in a company). But when responding to such messages, you hurriedly use the “Reply All” option. This not only sends the reply to the original sender, but to everyone else who has received the email, whether the reply is meant for them or not. This is a perfect way of clogging up the recipients’ inboxes.
For this reason, exercise care when responding to emails with multiple recipients, and use the “Reply” option. Only when you’re 100% certain that your reply is meant for everyone in the recipient list, should you use the “Reply All” option.
10. Properly use the Cc and Bcc fields
Along with the “To” field, the “Cc” and “Bcc” fields are something that anyone who’s ever had an email knows about. But even after that, most of the people end up using them improperly. Here’s a lowdown on what they are, and when they should be used:
- Cc: Stands for Carbon copy. If there are some recipients who you want to send an email to, but don’t want them to know that this email is “just” meant for them, enter their email addresses in this field. Each recipient can see the email addresses of others in the Cc field.
- Bcc: Short for Blind Carbon Copy. If there are multiple recipients who you want to send an email, but want them to see themselves as the sole recipients of the email, enter their email addresses in this field. Each recipient in a Bcc field can only see their own email address, and not of the others. This option is better suited for privacy.
11. Reply to emails in a timely manner
Given how many emails we receive on a daily basis, it’s nearly impossible to reply to all of them right away. However, even if an email is a bit low on your priority, you should try to respond to it in a timely manner. Generally this should be within 24-48 hours of receiving an email. And if you’re going to be unable to reply to emails for some time (e.g. due to a break), use the auto responder or vacation responder feature, that most of the email services have.
12. Properly format emails before forwarding
As soon as the “Forward” button is hit on an email, the entire message (including any images, misaligned text etc. it may be having) is weirdly indented to the right, and inserted into a blank email, so that you can enter the email IDs of the recipients and send it. This not only messes up the formatting of the original email, but also introduces a lot of white-space and extra symbols (>) into the forwarded email chunk, which in turn, makes the email almost unreadable.
To sort it up, you should properly format the forwarded email, when it’s embedded into a blank email. This includes removing the extra white-space, as well as getting rid of extra characters, blank lines, and things like that.
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Use Email the way it’s meant to be used
Since it’s the primary means of communication in today’s Internet connected world, it’s extremely important that Email is used in accordance with the proper rules, which includes everything from how you greet the recipients, to the font style you choose. And the etiquettes outlined above help you do just that, thus making for an overall better and productive email experience. So try them out, and let us know your favorites in the comments below.