In today's world of business, with offshore teams and virtual offices, a whole lot of work gets accomplished almost entirely via email.
Email isn't like other communication styles, though, and there are some guidelines about what is appropriate and expected when you communicate by email.
Here are 15 email no-nos and tips.
Have you been doing anything that's a breach of email etiquette?
- Never write in all caps and spare the exclamation points.
All caps is like shouting, and exclamation points are for teenagers. For business correspondence, capitalize the initial words of sentences, and forego the excited exclamation points.
- Use a simple font and layout.
Just because you can design a fancy email format with a black background and pink Gothic script text doesn't mean you should. People are busy and they just want to read what you have to say, so don't confuse them with some crazy font on a weird color.
- Use a concise and meaningful subject line.
Your recipient may have to wade through hundreds of emails a day, and your subject line has to stand out or they'll miss it. Don't be ambiguous or (worst of all) put no subject line, and don't look like spam.
- Keep it simple.
Short sentences with short words have more impact, and are more likely to be understood. They say if you can't say it in one sentence, you don't understand it.
- Break your text into paragraphs.
Long blocks of text are unreadable. Use paragraphs, which simply means hit two paragraph returns every few sentences so the copy breaks into blocks with an empty line between. Your readers will thank you.
- Don't use email for sensitive or confidential information.
If it's confidential, a phone or personal conversation might be better. Email may be convenient, but it doesn't let you see the reaction to your words and it may not have the effect you want. Better to talk in person.
- Assume your email will be published online for the world to see.
At the least, expect it to be forwarded and that eventually the person you most don't want to see it the will read it. In other words, don't say things in email that you don't want known publicly. It is not that secure of a means of communication.
- Assume you might have to explain your email in court.
I was involved in a court case where every bit of evidence was a piece of email correspondence. Whatever you write, keep your how-would-this-sound-to-a-judge filter on. (We won.)
- Don't cc: people unnecessarily and use bcc: sparingly, if ever.
Cut down on email traffic by only copying people who absolutely, positively need to get that email.
- Review every single email before you send it.
Look for typos, clarity and to see if you can make it simpler. Read it out loud and imagine you're the recipient. How does it sound to you? See if you can be more to the point.
- If it's an emotional or sensitive topic, email is not the way to go.
Instead, do it by phone or in person.
- Never send an email written in anger until you've cooled down.
Instead, write it, leaveing the "to:" field blank (so you can't accidentally send it), and come back to it at least several hours later, or better still, the next day. You'll have a different perspective on it then, I promise.
- Don't misuse the high priority flag or request delivery receipts.
I get resume submissions from job postings that are flagged high priority, or that ask for a receipt of being read, both of which are annoying.
- Create a professional signature line.
Drop the Rumi or Ben Franklin quote. There's no need append your philosophy to every email. On the other hand, do include contact information. It never ceases to amaze me that experienced business people don't put their full name, phone number and email address into an auto-fill signature line.
- Don't forward chain letters or hoaxes.
Heartbreaking as it seems, that story about the little orphaned girl with the dog has probably been bounding around the internet for a long time. If you get a chain letter or a panicked chain email about a new horrific computer virus and want to know if it's legit, go to www.snopes.com and search for it. Chances are about 99% that it's a hoax. And especially ignore the ones that threaten "forward this to ten people in ten minutes or something terrible will befall you!" That's just silly.
Hope those help!
More career tips at: