Published on April 24th, 2014 | by admin

The Importance Of Email Etiquette


Sending electronic mail has become the norm in our everyday lives, both at work and at home for over a decade. In fact, it has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Indeed email has blurred the lines between work and home life as many of us end up checking work related emails at evening and weekends plus we also sometimes check personal emails during work time (lunch times of course!).

The origins of email can be traced way back to 1971 when Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer from Massachusetts developed a system for sending messages between computers which used the ‘@’ symbol to identify addresses.

Whilst our gratitude to Ray for his discovery is overwhelming as we appreciate the value of email in everything we do, there is still room for improvement when it comes to etiquette. Just because we have plenty of practice, that’s not to say that many of us still don’t get many of the fundamentals wrong, so here is some advice on how to send a good email:

1.       Resist over-familiarity with strangers

Notably rife with sales pitch related emails, it is tempting to seek small talk with recipients by enquiring as to their well-being. However we learn that this approach is not deemed successful for achieving a response so keeping it polite but formal is important.

2.       Only send attachments where necessary

Recipients of emails with attachments seldom open them unless they are expecting them apparently. And in most cases the content of the attachment can actually be included in the main body of the email any way. Worst still than not read, an unexpected email with an attachment can  often quarantine the entire email meaning it may never actually reach its desired recipient in the first place.

3.       Always include name and contact details

It may sound obvious to include, but apparently a growing number of people omit their name and contact details from email correspondence they send. We wouldn’t forget to include our own details before sealing an envelope if sending a hand-written letter and an email should be no different. Whether it’s by design or by accident, failing to include a signature with these vital details is far too common place we learn.

4.       Keep it concise

Something we often fail to overlook when we draft emails is that recipients have a short attention span. So for this reason emails need to be short and simple even though they should be grammatically correct. This point is even more important now that emails are increasingly read on tablets and smart phones while people are on the move.

5.       Don’t immediately follow up on emails sent

It is not realistic to expect an instant response to every email sent. Of course for peace of mind that it was actually received, it is certainly worth requesting a delivery receipt and a read receipt but nagging someone with follow up emails is very unlikely to yield the desired outcome.

6.       Use sentence case

On the one hand, using all lowercase in an email can be construed as lazy, whilst the use of capital letters throughout an email can look as if you’re shouting. Therefore sentence case is the prudent approach to use for drafting any email using asterisk or bold to highlight any text of particular importance.

7.       Use of CC and BCC

It is somewhat surprising how often people fail to use the courtesy copy and blind copy options correctly when sending an email. ‘BCC’ is perfect for sending to a large distribution list so recipients won’t see a huge list of names whilst ‘CC’ is appropriate only for people who are directly involved – overuse simply clutters inboxes.

8.       Email is no excuse for avoiding personal contact  

There are still occasions when email is not really the appropriate method of communication. Face-to-face or voice-to-voice communication is far more effective in circumstances where messages are confusing or emotional.

9.       Utilise the subject field correctly

The subject field is the ideal opportunity to indicate the content and purpose of the email. There is little doubt that appropriate use of the subject field can help ensure an email is actually read promptly in the first place.

10.   Review before sending

Whilst it is easy to miss-spell a word where writing with a pen or pencil is concerned, there is no such excuse for sending an email containing grammatical errors. Therefore checking a draft before sending is vital, not only for content but also that it is going to the correct recipient(s).

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