Business Email Etiquette

Is your business email etiquette as diligent as your letter writing?

Business email etiquette is fast becoming one of our most important skills. It is an efficient, quick way of communicating with people and much less formal than letter writing. However, email etiquette rules should be followed at all times as this means of communication can reveal very quickly someone’s personality, communication skills and attitude towards others.

In simple terms, your internet etiquette reveals who you are. Something so simple can say so much.

Business email etiquette should be given the same consideration to those of letter writing etiquette i.e. it should be grammatically correct, addressed appropriately, spell checked and of course respectful.

The way an email is addressed should also be given some consideration. I prefer emails with a salutation of "Dear" or "Good morning" followed by the recipient's name.

You should also refrain from using email as an opportunity to say something that you wouldn't say face to face. Tempting it can certainly be, but again abiding by email etiquette rules can save you, and others, a lot of hurt. I learnt the hard way!

As hard as it is, if you have something negative/difficult to say to a colleague or client you should pick up the phone or meet that person face to face to discuss the issue.

On a positive note, email provides you with the perfect in between of letter writing and speaking on the phone if you apply certain email etiquette tips.

Email can also be used to provide reports and recommendations to clients quickly and efficiently (and eco-friendly) and it is a perfect opportunity to show your ability to write and communicate well, as long as you follow the email etiquette rules.

Do remember the following:

  • Your writing is the only way of conveying your message. You cannot provide facial expressions, hand gestures or personality. So you need to ensure you choose your words carefully.
  • Be wary of innuendos and double meanings and ensure they can't be misinterpreted.
  • Always use spell check (try to enable this on your smart phone if you use one) and proof read it before you send it, if you have grammar check as well even better. Without this you may make errors and could appear sloppy.
  • Ensure any email you send has a title to it. Have you ever tried searching for an email without one? If someone sends you an email without one, reply with a title and avoid having an audit trail in your sent box of "Re.Re.Re.". 
  • Write proper sentences, making sure you capitalise titles and use correct grammar. Whilst email may be a quicker form of communication it should still be written in the Queen's English. Text in capitals reads like you are shouting and all lower case makes harder reading and can look a little lazy.
  • Use exclamation marks sparingly.
  • Avoid chain mails, they can demonstrate a lack of maturity. What you do in your own time and personal email is your choice but don't get involved on your work email.
  • It is poor email etiquette to abuse the Cc: button and Reply All: button. 
  • Answer all the questions on an email in the order in which they were raised and state this at the beginning of your reply. Use the same bulleting method as the sender so that there is no question as to what you are answering. If you cannot reply to all the questions tell the recipient which ones and when you will reply with the remaining information.
  • Only use the words 'urgent' in the subject line if it really is. 
  • Only use read and delivery receipts if you are sending an email to someone who doesn't often check their mail. It can be considered as a sign that you don't trust them!
  • Remember to place your "out of office" on when you are going away with details of when you will be back and who to contact in your absence.

Finally, remember all emails are traceable by IT even when you have deleted them from every folder you can find. So never say anything you can't defend!


Other Business Etiquette Skills to Learn on this Site:

Business Meeting Etiquette

Business Negotiation Tactics

Business Phone Etiquette

Interview Etiquette

Interview Thank You Letters


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The Author, Emma Dupont, is hosting the following courses:

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