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Master your email etiquette

News & Articles 02-03-2016

The internet has made the global virtual office a reality. Here, Melissa Stewart explains how you can ensure your business emails do the job and don’t cause offence.

Email is arguably the 20th Century’s best invention – especially when it comes to business efficiency. No longer do you need to spend hours on the phone or call countless meetings in order to get things done. Indeed, deals can be clinched, strategies agreed, finances approved and employees briefed all at the touch of a keypad, from the comfort of your office chair. Best of all, it’s available 24/7.

The flip side of this is now that email is the dominant form of business communication it’s also, along with your company website, the shop window into your business. How you conduct yourself by email is how your clients and customers perceive you – it’s an extension of who you are and your brand personality. With this in mind, we take a look at the do’s and don’ts of effective email communication.

The name game

Email is generally less formal than traditional letter writing, but the general rule of thumb is to address your subject by the name they were introduced to you by. If you’ve never met them or spoken to them address them by their title – eg. Mr Winters. Just ensure you spell it right first time to avoid embarrassment. A Hi or Hello is a generally accepted form of salutation, but avoid using Hey which can be perceived as a bit casual.

Keep it concise

Avoid waffling. Most professional people are time poor and busy. Get to the point in your email as quickly as you can and keep sentences short and sharp. If you need a quick response – mark the message as High Priority before you send it. But, avoid the urge to do this with every email you send or you’ll end up being ignored.

Don’t be overfamiliar

When writing business emails keep it professional. Even if your son does go to school with your potential new client’s daughter, you don’t need to reference them in the email. This can be perceived as pushy, overfamiliar and, at worst, stalkerish. Keep business to business.

Spell check

If you’re firing off hundreds of emails a day then chances are you may make some mistakes along the way. Proof read and check what you’ve written before you click Send. Remember, your associates and clients are judging you on what you’ve written so it pays to do a last minute polish. Another useful tip is to write the email first before entering the recipients’ names – that way you ensure your email is going to the right person, and not some distant associate you met three years ago.

Simple formatting

Exclamation marks and capital letters can be perceived as shouty and aggressive. Use proper punctuation and AVOID THE URGE TO SCREAM!!! On a similar note, don’t try to inject humour into your emails. It can be harder to interpret humour in an email and the last thing you want to do is offend. Also, avoid colour formatting your text as it could have cultural significances that you’re not aware of.

Needless CCing

There’s nothing quite as irritating as being CC’d into a stream of irrelevant emails. Unless it’s completely necessary, try to keep your CCing to a minimum. Ask yourself, “Does X really need to know about this or am I just doing it to cover my back?” If it’s the latter, omit the CC.

Sign off

Keep it professional. Kind regards, Best regards or Yours sincerely, are widely understood and unlikely to cause confusion or offence. If it’s someone you regularly do business with then Best wishes is fine. Sign off with your full name, unless you’ve already established first name terms with the recipient.

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