You probably send dozens of email a day, but are your messages well received? Are some of your emails just ticking people off? It could be you are breaking some cardinal rules of business email etiquette.
Our editorial team gets and sends hundreds of emails a day. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. So, we’ve come up with email etiquette guidelines that business people should follow for solid email communications.
Business Email Etiquette Guidelines
Here are 25 email etiquette guidelines you may wish to consider for your own small business.
Get the Salutation and Closing Right
Writing effective emails starts with the proper salutation and closing. A Perkbox Insights survey of 1,928 professionals found there is a real preference for certain email greetings and closings versus others. Almost half of those surveyed prefer emails that start with the greeting “Hi”. Other popular greetings include:
Good morning/afternoon (48%)
When it comes to closing expressions for business emails, survey respondents preferred the following:
Kind regards (69%)
Thanks or thanks again (46%)
Thanks in advance (21%)
Best wishes (20%)
And what is the worst way to end business emails? “Love”, “Warmly”, and using no sign-off rated the worst ways to close.
Don’t Leave People Hanging
Confirm receipt for messages you can’t get to right away. Let the sender know that you got it and will respond at a later date. Tell them when to expect it. Set a date and time and stick to it.
When you go on vacation or out of the office for more than a day or two, set up an out-of-office reply or away message so people will get a quick acknowledgment. Include the date you’ll be back in the office and when you expect to respond. Give people an alternate contact for urgent matters in case they need to reach someone in your company right away.
Limit Acronyms and Jargon
Before using business abbreviations and acronyms or jargon in your emails, consider the knowledge of the recipient. If you’re dealing with clients in different industries, for example, you might want to include more information than you would with your co-workers. Overuse of acronyms cuts people out of the conversation.
Only Use ‘Reply All’ When Necessary
When you get emails that include several people, you might be tempted to just reply to everyone. But this can lead to a lot of wasted time for recipients if the message isn’t relevant to them. It can even be embarrassing if your reply conveys sensitive company information and it goes to a client who happens to be copied. So use care and only hit “reply all” when it’s absolutely necessary.
Use the Undo Send Feature
Some email clients like Gmail have a feature that will allow you to undo sending an email for up to 30 seconds. If you forgot to check for typos or an attachment, act quickly and you can cancel sending the email before it arrives at the other end, and make corrections.
Wait 24 Hours Before Sending Emotional Messages
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are tempted to send an angry or emotional email, craft your message. Avoid hitting send until you step away for a day to clear your head. Work related emails should be devoid of negative emotion. It’s painful for others to receive emotional words.
Avoid Using All Caps
Don’t go crazy with the CAPS LOCK as 67% of people can’t tolerate it according to the survey. Always use sentence case. Capital letters can add emphasis. But they can also come across as screaming. Consider using italics or a color to highlight.
Keep it Short
About 29% of people say they can’t tolerate long emails. Do you really want to lose almost a third of readers just because of message size? Respect the time of your team and business associates. Use short paragraphs and formatting such as bullet points that make emails easy to skim.
Instead of a long email, try an alternative: a video call, face-to-face meeting, or phone call. If it has to be in writing, create a separate report in an attachment or shared cloud document.
A Clear Subject Line is a Must
Subject lines should accurately reflect the content. A clear subject line is a courtesy informing the recipient what to expect before opening your message. More than that, it may make the difference between people opening your email, or ignoring it.
Don’t Share Confidential Information
Emails are all too easy to forward and share, or to accidentally send to the wrong person. Most email messages are not the right format to share confidential information.
Use Humor with Caution
You might be tempted to add in a little fun or humor to your emails. But without body language, humor and tone can be difficult to decipher in emails. Never use jokes unless you have a good relationship with the recipient.
Limit Emoji and Emoticons
When it comes to emoji, smileys and emoticons, keep those to conversations with friends and close co-workers. Customers and sales prospects may see them as unprofessional.
Don’t Be Hasty with Reminders
Give a recipient a day or two to respond, depending on the type of inquiry. A recipient may feel chastised by getting a reminder when he or she has been out of the office or in meetings all day.
Also, before sending reminders, please check your junk or spam folder. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. Has anyone ever complained they did not receive one of your messages, forcing you to go out of your way to re-send it, only to then reply “Oh, it was in my spam folder.” You probably felt slightly annoyed, thinking, “Why didn’t you look there in the first place?”
Be Careful with BCC
BCC stands for blind carbon copy and it means that others do not see the blind-copied person on the recipient list. BCC is good etiquette if you want to inform other people in your organization and protect their name, title or email address from going to, say, a sales rep for an outside vendor. But BCC can be bad etiquette if your purpose is to be devious and go behind a coworker’s back. How will you feel if your coworker learns that his boss was blind copied? If it could upset him, then don’t use it.
Add a Personal Message When Forwarding
When you find it necessary to forward an email to a coworker, add an introduction at the top instead of just hitting send. Don’t force associates to read through an unfamiliar email thread without context. Also consider changing the subject line title so it makes more sense.
Add the Email Address Last
If you’re drafting a brand new email, start with the subject and content before adding email addresses. This will prevent you from accidentally sending it too early, and having to waste everyone’s time telling them to ignore your incomplete message.
Have a Clear Call to Action
What do you want the recipient to do with your message, if anything? If it’s purely to inform the other person, then so state. But if you expect a reply, a decision or another thing, be crystal clear. It’s amazing how many emails are vague about what the recipient is being asked to do (or not do).
Include Contact Information
Twenty-three percent of email users say it is poor etiquette to not have an email signature block. A professional email signature with relevant information doesn’t just make you look more professional; it also makes it easier for the person you’re contacting.
Include relevant information like your phone number, company website, and social media handles so they can easily reach out if they have extra questions. If your email includes specific instructions for a person to call you or contact you in another way, include those details in the body as well.
Stick to Black and White
Some individuals try to add some pizazz to their emails with unique colors, fonts, or design elements. But this can rub some recipients the wrong way. And the styles that appeal to you may make it less appealing to others.
Avoid using unique font colors and background patterns in your emails. Classic black and white is the easiest to read. And pair it with basic fonts like Times New Roman. This can help you make a professional impression, whether you’re communicating with employees or partners. .
Limit Exclamation Points
Some use exclamation marks to show excitement or convey friendliness. However, they should be used sparingly in professional email. In fact, 16% say this punctuation mark is unacceptable while 48% will tolerate only one per email.
Keep in mind the tone of the email. For example, an email announcing exciting new products or services may accommodate more than an email about an employee communication issue. And then read through it at the end to double check that it’s not packed full of excess excitement.
You don’t want to take the time to craft a great email message only to have it littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. Take a minute to proofread and spell check before sending so you can catch any potential errors. Look for both spelling and grammatical issues.
Additionally, read through your message with a mind on how your recipient will read it. Think about the tone to make sure it doesn’t get taken in a different way.
Then go back and make sure that you spelled the person’s name correctly in your email. You can’t be too careful in this instance. Also choose the proper email address — it’s embarrassing to send to the wrong email accounts.
Know When to Be Formal
Keep things more formal with those you’re emailing for the first time. Err on the side of being more formal and professional with clients and superiors as well. Formality shows respect and is less likely to be misinterpreted.
Once you get to know someone more, you can get less formal. For instance, you might use first names or a nickname instead of full names. Or you could shorten your greeting or sign off with those you communicate with regularly.
Don’t Forget to Attach
It’s fairly common to say you are attaching something and then forget to actually do it. This doesn’t just make you look forgetful; it also forces the recipient to reach out with a reminder. So double check before sending.
Additionally, name your attachments appropriately if there are several. This allows them to avoid opening each one to see what it is. And it can even help them avoid opening attachments with viruses or malware. If possible, send PDFs instead of files that require a specific program so they don’t need to download extras to see what you’ve sent.
Consider Different Cultures and Languages
You might sometimes correspond with individuals from different cultures or backgrounds via email. So be sure to consider that when crafting your responses so no one gets offended or confused.
For example, use simple, widely recognized terms instead of American-centered slang. If you regularly communicate with teams or recipients in a particular country, research info about that culture to get even more specific and avoid miscommunication.
Start a New Email Chain for New Subjects
When emailing someone who you correspond with frequently, it can be tempting to keep just one chain going continuously. But this can make it difficult to keep your conversations organized. So start a new chain for each new subject.
Along the same lines, only forward messages when absolutely necessary. And avoid hitting reply all when you only need to message one or two recipients on an email chain.
Salutation and Closing- Use appropriate greetings and closings.
– Avoid inappropriate greetings or closings.Survey preferences: “Hi”, “Good morning/afternoon”, etc.
Confirm Receipt and Out-of-Office- Confirm receipt and specify response timeframe.
– Set out-of-office replies during vacations.Provide date of return and alternate contact during OOO.
Limit Acronyms and Jargon- Use clear language.
– Avoid excessive acronyms and jargon.Adapt language based on recipient’s industry knowledge.
Only Use ‘Reply All’ When Necessary- Be cautious with “reply all.”
– Avoid sending irrelevant emails to everyone.Prevent wasted time and potential embarrassment.
Use the Undo Send Feature- Act quickly to undo sent emails for corrections.Available in some email clients like Gmail.
Wait 24 Hours Before Sending Emotional Messages- Avoid sending emotional emails immediately.Maintain a professional tone in work-related emails.
What are do’s and don’ts of business email?
Do keep business correspondence professional.
Do compose emails that respect people’s time.
Do stick to the subject matter and get to the point.
Don’t overuse emojis or exclamation points.
Don’t use slang with clients or business associates you don’t know well.
Don’t use emotional words.
Don’t use sarcasm, and be careful with humor and tone so that you don’t inadvertently offend when you send an email.
What are the benefits of email etiquette?
There are five advantages to adopting email etiquette rules:
Improved company image.
Better response to sales messages.
Organizational efficiency and time savings.
Lower workplace liability by avoiding improper tone or misinterpretation.
Keep business correspondence professional.Overuse emojis or exclamation points.
Compose emails that respect people’s time.Use slang with clients or unfamiliar associates.
Stick to the subject matter and get to the point.Use emotional words.
Use sarcasm, offensive humor, or unclear tone.
More etiquette tips:
Email etiquette refers to the proper behavior and practices when writing and replying to business emails.
See our list of tips and examples.Read MoreSmall Business Operations, Email MarketingSmall Business Trends