Email Etiquette, Rules to Live and Work By

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Today, email has surpassed the telephone as the most commonly used form of business communication. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute has revealed that the average office worker spends 28% of their time composing, answering and organising emails- that equates to 73 full working days a year!

Since we spend such a considerable amount of time glued to our email inboxes and as email traffic continues to rise, we should really know how to be using it effectively. Busy professionals receive endless amounts of emails a day, are you guilty of adding to their email clutter? Are you getting your point across quickly and clearly? If you want your emails to be regarded with credibility and gain some respect professionally, be sure to adhere to basic email etiquette.

Here are EasyOffices’ top ten rules of business email etiquette to position yourself with more professionalism the next time you “send and receive”.

1.       Be Concise

Chances are, your email is one of many in a long queue waiting to be read. Try to keep things brief and to the point. If your email is longer than five paragraphs, it’s time to start editing. Remove anything which is unnecessary and use bullet points or numbers for easy reference and aided comprehension for the reader.

2.       Break the Chain

Have you ever been included in an email chain that has gone back and forth for hours, even days? You’ve probably spent a large amount of time composing and reviewing emails which a five minute phone call would have solved. If you sense a topic is going to create a great deal of discussion, pick up the phone and speak to those involved directly. If your thread has veered off topic somewhere along the line, make sure you keep your subject line updated.

3.       Make Your Subject Stand Out

On the topic of subject lines, make yours the first one the reader opens with an attention grabbing, yet descriptive subject line. This is what makes or breaks whether an email is opened or left in the inbox forever. Take time to review your subject, as anything with typos may be classified as spam and sent to the junk folder.

4.       Resist “replying to all”

It can be pretty frustrating and boring for people to trail through deleting emails that weren’t even relevant to them in the first place. Instead of immediately hitting “reply all”, consider whether the information needs to go out to the entire list. Organising a company dinner? Does everyone on the entire list need to know what you plan on eating for dinner? Probably not; this is a reply to sender only scenario.

5.       Reply in a Timely Manner

Email was built for speed. If we wanted a response which took longer than 24 hours, a letter would do. Where time allows, aim to respond to emails within one working day. If you are “snowed under”, let the sender know that their email has been acknowledged and an expected time of when they should expect a response. This will help build up trust with your colleagues or clients, and ensure them that they are still high on your priority list.

6.       Don’t Let Emotions Take Control

There are times where you may receive a rather unpleasant email which may get your blood boiling. Remember that your professionalism is always at stake, so if you are tempted to send an emotional filled response, go out for a walk or try to clear your head. Drafting the response you really want to send may also help you cool off, but no matter how tempted you may be, remember never to press send.

7.       Make Proper Use of “To” and “CC”

For those the correspondence is directly relevant for and will require action, “to”, is the correct indicator to choose. If you have colleagues who require a copy for reference or needs to be kept into the trail of knowledge, “CC” is the appropriate option for them. The general rule of thumb is that recipients in the “To” field are expected to reply or follow up to the email, while those in the CC field do not.

8.       Use “FYI” for Emails With No Action Required

Some emails need to be shared to keep everyone in the loop and to ensure that action points are taken up on. In order to help prioritise inboxes, label any non-actionable correspondence with FYI, so the red flagged important items can be viewed quickly at a glance.

9.       Consider Your Attachments

Most email providers will have limits on the size of files you can send over email. Consider compressing your files, or for even greater convenience, using a tool like Dropbox which allows files and document of any size to be shared with multiple people, and can even be used on the go. Also make reference to your attachments in the body of the email so that your reader doesn’t forget to download or read your documents.

10.   Sign Off

Email is much higher up the chain of formality in comparison to text messaging. Just like you wouldn’t use text language or speak in a business email, signing off your email properly is essential. Even when you know the person well, it is always important to close with a friendly reference, showing that you are polite.

Remember that an e-mail is a reflection of your professional profile and every message you send adds to, or detracts from your reputation. If your email is cluttered and filled with spelling mistakes, it is likely you will be thought of as careless. Position yourself as organised through accurate and well thought out emails.

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