Email is a crucial part of our daily lives. Every day, we’re writing, sending, reading, and responding to messages. If you’re like me, email has become second-nature — but that doesn’t mean we should take it for granted or stop caring about what we send. It is important to take responsibility for your messages, especially if you’re sending them through a company email server.
Here are eight ways you can improve your email etiquette and ensure you’re using this ever-changing tool correctly:
1. Subjects matter.
When you’re writing a message, the subject line is one of the most important parts. It is the first thing someone sees when your email enters their inbox. If it doesn’t appeal to the reader right away or seem urgent, it might be swept aside until a later date when that person has time to clean out their inbox. If the message you are sending is urgent, send it with high importance and flag it in a different color. This way, the reader will know this is something they should spend their time looking at.
Tip: When you’re writing your subject line, make it specific and include all important pieces of information — but keep it as short as possible. For subject lines, a few words are acceptable. Anything longer will get cut off and won’t matter at all.
2. Introduce yourself.
If you’re sending someone a message for the first time, make sure to say hello and let them know who you are. I usually introduce myself in the first line of a message to someone new – even though my email signature is present at the bottom of the message. Saying hello and giving them a line about who you are and why you are contacting them makes a better first impression.
Tip: Keep it formal but don’t be stiff. A simple “I hope you’re having a great day!” is an easy way to start a conversation.
3. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
On any given day, I receive dozens of emails. Most of the time, I don’t even get through them all — keep this in mind when you’re sending someone an email. State the facts and keep the information simple. Writing a short message is a good way to ensure you don’t lose your reader’s attention.
Tip: Make all of your points as soon as possible and try to style the email in a way that is easy to digest (numbers, bullet points, etc.). This way, you can call attention to the most important parts of your message without providing an overwhelming amount of information.
4. Be professional – and address your reader.
This one is a no-brainer but should be mentioned anyway. When you are writing a message to anyone, make sure to maintain a professional demeanor. Your emails are a reflection of you and the first impression a lot of people will get from you. Don’t mess it up! Include a professional email signature with all of your contact information and your company name. Also, don’t forget to include formal salutations in your greeting. “Hey” or “Yo” will never have the same kind of impact as “Hello” or even “Hi.”
Tip: Make sure to address your recipient. Use their name and try not to shorten it to include their nickname unless you’re certain they prefer it. When in doubt, use “Joseph” instead of “Joe” or “Katherine” instead of “Katie.”
5. Skip the texting lingo.
This point goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. When you’re penning an email, omit the LOLs and TTYLs you might include in your texts with friends. For a work email, spell out all necessary abbreviations and think before you type something that might not translate well via email. You want your message to come across as professional and mature — and someone might misunderstand your funny banter for a different tone if you don’t relay it properly.
Tip: Feel free to include smiley faces or exclamation points but don’t overdo it. You want the person who is on the receiving end of your email to take you seriously.
6. Check your spelling and grammar.
When you’re sending a message to one of your coworkers — or collaborating with an outside vendor or contributor — make sure you’re concise and your message makes sense. Don’t forget to double-check for typos and use spell check. There’s nothing worse than looking back at a message and realizing you made a mistake. Once you hit send, you can’t take it back!
Tip: Don’t rely simply on the “Spelling and Grammar” function on your computer. While these tools are helpful, they don’t always catch every mistake. Don’t be afraid to ask a co-worker for an extra pair of eyes on something important.
7. Be conscious of the “reply all” function.
This is something that I can’t stress enough. It is probable that you will — at one point or another — be included on an email thread with multiple people. If the email warrants a “reply all” response, then, by all means, respond. But if what you have to say in response would be better suited for just one person on the thread, be careful to only reply to that person. If you are replying to the whole group, ensure that your message is appropriate for everyone. Sometimes, the message doesn’t benefit every person involved and gets ignored in their inbox anyway. Other times, people send messages to the wrong people by mistake — and this can lead to problems.
Tip: Double-check before you click “send” on any message. Make sure your recipients are correct and your message is appropriate for all parties included.
8. Don’t take all day to reply.
When it comes to answering an email, try your hardest to be prompt when responding. Most of the time, the person who emailed you is looking for something in response, like an answer to a question — and making them wait will only slow down their production. It reminds me of the old adage, “You can only drive as fast as the car in front of you.” Technically, the same could be said for email. If my job depends on your response and you take three days to answer, then my job falls behind because I’m waiting for you.
Tip: If you’re the one waiting for a response, try to be patient. The person you are emailing is probably extremely busy and probably isn’t ignoring your message on purpose. If you have to send a follow-up email, be courteous and don’t point fingers. Email is a two-way street!
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