This past week I have experienced a lot of email etiquette faux pas. When writing an email I try my best to be as concise as possible, but also to write actionable emails (for work that is) to ensure I get the response I would like to have.
Did you know
According to Lifewire:
- More than half of the world population used email in 2019.
- The number of worldwide email users is expected to grow to more than 4.3 billion by the end of 2023.
- The total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day exceeded 293 billion in 2019 and is forecast to grow to more than 347 billion by the end of 2023.
With the average professional sending 40 emails a day and receiving 121 you are bound to make mistakes. Overstep the line of etiquette. I get it. I make mistakes every day.
I’ve been studying email etiquette over the past 17+ years (see it as a hobby or someone who has pet-peeve in terrible written emails) and the gist of email etiquette stayed the same. (One has to remember that email etiquette is a set of guidelines to help you communicate better.) If we somehow try our best to adhere to the basic email etiquette prescribed by those who know how, I believe one can get much further in your business life.
I’m going to try and give you my top ones which, I believe, are deal-breakers.
Use professional salutations
Use “Hello” and “Hi” rather than “Hey” in professional emails. If you keep this email etiquette rule top-of-mind, you will avoid all instances of coming off as non-professional or too casual to your recipient.
Use Reply, Reply-all, CC and BCC etiquette
A common misconception in professional emailing is the use of Reply vs. Reply-all and CC vs. BCC. It is of utmost importance to know when to use these functions.
Reply vs. Reply-all:
Use Reply when you only want to respond to one person in an email thread, and use Reply-all when you want to respond to all emails on the thread.
Refrain from using Reply-all unless it is completely necessary. This not only adds unnecessary clutter to the other recipients’ inboxes, but it isn’t proper email etiquette to respond to one person and send that message to everyone.
CC (carbon copy) vs. BCC (blind carbon copy):
When you CC someone, those emails are visible to all recipients. Use CC when you want to start an email thread with those people or loop others into the messages. BCC is when the person’s email is hidden from others but they receive an exact copy of the messages. They also will not receive future threads, so use this accordingly.
Write a clear, direct subject line
Subject lines are fundamental to the possibility that your recipient even opens your message. People decide if they want to read your email just based on the subject line. But the number one rule of email etiquette is to keep this subject line clear, concise, and directed at exactly what the email contains.
Your subject line should state what your message is about while staying relatively short. In most of my resources (listed below) they tell you to keep your subject line to 7 words. Lastly, always keep mobile users in mind.
Don’t use the exclamation mark!
See what I did right there. Not a nice feeling. The exclamation mark is only there to show surprise (in email context). And if you would like to use an exclamation mark, only use it once.
Last one: When to expect a reply to your email
Nothing is as bad as getting an email and seconds later to have that person who sent you the email standing at your desk asking you whether you have received (and all the more read) their email. Don’t be that person.
Judith answers the question about how long you have to answer an email in her article on email etiquette: “I recommend at least 24 hours (during business hours of course) if at all possible. If you cannot respond, note saying you will respond can do so in detail.”
If you would like to have a very refined list of email etiquette, read Jayson DeMers article on 51 Email Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow.
- How to Perfect Your Email Etiquette in 2020. Jenny Keohane. 2019. https://www.yesware.com/blog/perfect-your-email-etiquette-in-2020/ (visited on 19 June 2020).
- 15 email etiquette rules every professional should know. Allana Akhtar and Marguerite Ward. 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/email-etiquette-rules-every-professional-needs-to-know-2016-1?IR=T (visited on 21 June 2020).
- How fast should you respond or expect a response to business emails? Judith Kallos. 2019. https://www.businessemailetiquette.com/how-fast-should-you-respond (visited on 21 June 2020)
- 51 Email Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow. Jayson DeMers. https://emailanalytics.com/51-email-etiquette-rules-everyone-should-follow/ (visited on 19 June 2020).