The rules of modern email etiquette

By Gayle Bryant | December 27, 2013

It's important to learn a few simple rules around email etiquette to avoid any business misunderstandings.

When it comes to business communication, email is a clear winner. But with tone difficult to convey, it's important to learn a few simple rules around email etiquette to avoid any misunderstandings.

1. Avoid informal language

This includes the abbreviations that have become common on Twitter. A business email is a reflection of you and your organisation so ensure all spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct.

2. Avoid emoticons

While tone is difficult to get across in an email, using emoticons is not advisable. Having emails peppered with little faces that are meant to portray your mood detracts from the message and comes across as unprofessional.

3. Use the subject line to state the purpose of your email

Often we only have time to scan an email, so having keywords in the subject line helps us determine whether it's one we need to read. This also assists when trying to retrieve emails we need to read again.

4. Keep your message short

We receive so many emails that they need to be brief and to the point. If you need to elaborate on particular areas, send an attachment.

5. Don't SHOUT

Using capital letters is a big mistake as it looks like you're shouting. Also avoid using all lower case letters as it appears you've dashed off the email without putting any thought into it. If you do need to emphasise a point, put it in bold type.

6. Avoid anything you wouldn't want the world to read

Email is not private and your job could be at risk for sending inappropriate material via email. The best rule is to not put anything in an email that you wouldn't share with the world. There are programs around that delay sending emails if you're worried you might lapse one day and send an email you regret.

7. Beware the "Reply All" button

Not everyone needs to receive an email from you thanking someone for his or her email. Hitting "Reply All" clutters up people's inboxes and can be seen as annoying, so think twice before you do this. The same applies when you copy people into your email. Only CC people who need to know the information you're sending.

Email is an extremely efficient form of communication, but don't forget that when the message really needs to get through there's nothing better than a face-to-face chat. This way the message - and the tone you wish to get across - won't be misinterpreted.


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