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By Dawn Angier

 

   

 

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Essential Email Etiquette

Mastering your email skills goes a long way towards forging a professional perception. Here are the top email etiquette rules for kind and considerate email:

1. Be concise and to the point.
Brevity is king. Don't make an email any longer than it needs to be. A long email can be very overwhelming and discouraging to read.

2. Keep your message to one topic.
If you have more than one topic to discuss, break the topics into separate emails. This allows the recipient to focus on one item. Also, the email message thread will be much easier to follow and look up if there’s ever a need to go back and refer to an old message.

3. Avoid long sentences and paragraphs.
Keep your sentences to a maximum of 15-20 words and paragraphs to 6 lines or less. Email is meant to be a quick medium and requires a different kind of writing than letters.

4. Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Improper spelling, grammar and punctuation give a bad impression of you and your company.  Emails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. Use your spell checker on every outgoing message.

5. Answer promptly.
Customers like to receive a quick response. If at all possible, reply to the email within at least 24 hours and preferably within the same working day. If the email is complicated and needs more than just a quick answer, at least send an email back saying that you’ve received it, and that you'll get back to them.

6. Create a friends list.
Mark associates, friends and acceptable email addresses as “Safe Senders” so they won’t be blocked by your email program. What is a Safe Sender List? It’s a list of addresses and domains that will be ignored by your spam filter and will be delivered to your inbox—provided your ISP lets them through. Here are instructions on how to add to your Safe Senders List (for popular email programs).  http://www.notbadmail.com/Info/Whitelist.html

7. Do not overuse the high priority option.
If you overuse the high priority option, it won't be effective when you really do need to use it. Your message may also come across as slightly aggressive if you flag it as "high priority".

8. Do not write in ALL CAPS.
If you write in all capital letters, it looks as if you're SHOUTING. This can be highly annoying and might trigger an unwanted response. It’s also difficult to read.

9. When replying, leave the message thread.
When you reply to an email, include the original mail in your reply. This means to use "Reply" instead of "New Mail". Leaving the thread might take a fraction longer in download time, but it will save the recipient much more time and frustration in looking for the related emails in their inbox.

10. Read your message before you send it.
Reading your email through the eyes of the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate comments. Ideally, reading the email out loud will help you quickly pick up any unclear or emotional phrases that may be misinterpreted.

11. Do not overuse Reply to All.
Only use Reply to All if you actually intend your message to be seen by each person who received the original message.

12. Do not use Reply to send a new message.
A new message should be created by clicking "New Mail". Digging up an old message and using it as a new message confuses the recipient. Copy the email address if you need to, but don’t make a new message look like a reply unless it truly IS a reply to a former message.

13. Use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy).
When addressing a message to a group of people, use the BCC address line. By using BCC, the recipient only sees two recipients: theirs and yours.

14. Use a meaningful subject.
Use a subject that is meaningful to the recipient as well as yourself. For example, when you send an email to someone requesting information about a product, it's better to mention the actual name of the product, e.g. "Product A Information" than to just say "Product Information".

15. Do not forward virus hoaxes and chain letters.
If you receive an email message warning you of a new unstoppable virus that will immediately delete everything from your computer, this is most likely a hoax. By forwarding hoaxes you use valuable bandwidth and sometimes virus hoaxes contain viruses themselves, by attaching a so-called file that will stop the dangerous virus. The same goes for chain letters that promise riches or ask your help for a charitable cause. If in doubt, click here

16. Don't write anything you wouldn't say in public.
Anyone can easily forward your message, even accidentally. This could leave you in an embarrassing position if you divulge personal or confidential information. If you don't want to potentially share something you write, consider using the telephone.
 

Related Articles

    Mistakes Count Against You
    We're all using email more and more these days. But when did we really learn
    email etiquette? This article is a crash course in Email 101.
    

    Get to the Point, PLEASE: The Power of Being Pithy
    Do you talk too much or too long? If you do, you may be losing your audience and diluting your ability to influence.

 

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Last Updated 02/25/2006