Email Etiquette Delivers Your Online Message With Style
Nothing serves more as an ambassador of your Internet presence than your email. Every email you send is a representation of your image, or brand.
It is estimated that nearly 300 billion email messages are sent each day, with roughly 10% of these being legitimate missives that you and I would send, and the rest comprising spam and viruses.
By contrast, the volume of first-class snail was approximately 72 billion 2010, but I could find no statistics that indicated how many of those mailing were actual letters rather than bills, advertisements and other mailing, but my guess is a small percentage were actually letters or greeting cards.
But, I believe we can agree that the Internet – email and websites – have replaced snail mail as the way most people communicate, socialize and conduct business.
With this in mind, an understanding and mastering of email etiquette is vital to your brand and online presence, so you need to get it right. Developing good habits in composing emails will serve you well!
Following are some guidelines to help ensure that you are email savvy:
Because people tend to put less thought into composing their emails than they do composing a letter or greeting card to be sent through the Post Office, emails can often work against a person’s image and reputation. You want the tone of your emails to be welcoming and clear, and contain warmth, seriousness, humor or lightheartedness, as appropriate, depending on to whom you are sending an email and what your message is. Thus, to strike a proper tone to your email you should take care to choose your words wisely, as you want to appear professional, sophisticated, savvy, competent, ethical, authentic, understanding, sympathetic, empathetic, trustworthy and competent, and never arrogant, entitled, narcissistic, unsophisticated, unprofessional, disrespectful or inconsiderate.
Grammar, Spelling, Sentence Structure and Syntax
Yes, these are important. There is no time like the present to put to use all that you have learned in school and college and present the impression of the smart and savvy person you are, or aspire to be. This is your brand on the line, so put forth the effort.
Use punctuation in your emails as you would in a regular letter or memo – periods, commas, colons and semi colons – to facilitate a clear, readable message.
The punctuation mark that you should use judiciously is the exclamation point, which can give the impression of being frivolous, emphatic, warm or enthusiastic. In a business email – and that is any email that you send to someone with whom you have a business relationship, such as a teacher, professor, supervisor, recruiter, prospective employer or anyone you have met in a professional rather than personal situation – use exclamation points sparingly and fittingly. In any email, however, do not overuse the exclamation point.
As with the exclamation point, emoticons should be used sparingly in personal emails to friends, family and personal acquaintances – and never anything that is offensive or questionable or that might misconstrued. Avoid emoticons altogether in business emails, as they will most likely be viewed as unprofessional and reflect unfavorably on you.
Salutations / Greetings
The word, “dear,” is still the most acceptable form of salutation. Just as you would open a formal business letter to your professor, recruiter, prospective employer or other business contact, or a personal letter to a friend or relative, with “Dear…,” you would also open a formal business email or personal email with, “Dear.” This salutation shows respect for the person or persons to whom you are addressing the email, and it reflects your sophistication and savvy. It’s a time-honored business convention that is being used increasingly when sending emails. We even use it when writing a complaint letter; it means that we are civilized. Don’t hesitate to use it.
Hi / Hello
These words may be used for a less formal salutation when sending business emails to those with whom you are well acquainted.
When someone calls out, “hey,” at another person, the retort might be, “hay is for horses,” to indicate that using the word, “hey” to address a person is not considered good form, or good manners. For that reason, beginning an email with the word, “hey,” is considered to be disrespectful. My advice is to avoid using “hey” altogether, orally or written in an email. Instead, use it to express “surprise, appreciation, wonder, or pleasure,” as defined in the online source, The Free Dictionary.
Greetings / Good Morning / Good Afternoon
These salutations are fine for a casual email greeting, but not for formal emails. In addition, “Good Morning,” etc., can be tricky if the recipient opens your email at another time of the day, so use your judgment with these salutations.
Formal (NOTE: My favorite is “Sincerely,” but there are others.)
Best regards, Best wishes, Cordially, Cordially yours, Regards, Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Yours truly
Always, As always, Best, Best regards, Best wishes, Cordially, Kind regards, Regards, Respectfully, Warm regards, Warmest regards
Informal / Casual – (NOTE: Here is where you can be creative with your friends and close personal acquaintances, provided you do not use profanity, obscenities or anything inappropriate or offensive.)
Always, As always, Best, Cheers, Fondly, Love, Peace, Regards, Take care, Warm regards
Your subject line should identify clearly the reason you are sending the email. People receive many emails everyday and you want to make it easy to identify the purpose of yours readily. Otherwise, it might be passed over, forgotten or deleted.
How many times have you composed a masterpiece of an email, only to forget to save it and wind up losing it? It has happened to most if not all of us. Thus, saving regularly as you compose is prudent. I tend to compose important emails in Word, also saving regularly, and then transfer them to email when I’m ready to send.
Once you have finished your perfect email – salutation, composition with the right words and punctuation and closing – you are ready to proofread. Here is the technique I recommend:
1. Use your Word or email spell/grammar check function to identify obvious errors.
2. Read through the email manually and slowly, saying and emphasizing every word aloud. This is an excellent method of identifying typos, missing, misused and misspelled worlds. For example, a common error is typing “you” when you mean “your”; as in:
Wrong: I enjoyed reading you essay on, “Homer Simpson as the head of the National Regulatory Commission.
Correct: I enjoyed reading your essay on, “Homer Simpson as the head of the National Regulatory Commission.
3. Read it through once more quickly, silently and normally, as your recipient would.
4.Once you have satisfied yourself that the salutation, closing, tone, wording, grammar, spelling, sentence structure, syntax, punctuation and overall tone are correct, and you have checked to ensure that a copy is being saved (emails sent through LinkedIn, for example, don’t always automatically save a copy), you are ready to send the email.
5. Before pressing “send,” ensure that you have the correct addressee and address in the “To” field, as well as the correct names and addresses in the “cc” and / or “bcc” fields, and that the subject of your email is properly identified.
Replying To Emails
Respond in a timely fashion, based on requests, deadlines and common sense. The rule of thumb is to respond within 24 hours unless a response time is otherwise indicated.
The best technique is to reply to an email in the same format and with the same tone. Before you press the “Send” button, ensure that you are not replying to “All,” unless that is your intent, and that you include all previous emails. Keeping the email chain intact is helpful to other recipients to understand or be refreshed on the history of the email’s history; it’s a timesaver and shows consideration and respect for others.
Spending a bit more time upfront on your emails will produce an enormous return on your investment. And, now is the time to start.
Until next time,