Business Email Etiquette: 12 Rules to Make Your Letter Great

Artem Tunik -

email etiquette

What is Professional Email Etiquette?

As long as emailing strengthens its position as a leader mean of business communication, we are less focused on what we write and how. However, it is important to follow some business email etiquette rules. Why? The experts claim that your behavior in during this communication can have a great impact on your personal and professional reputation.

Written information can be easily misunderstood; some grammar and content mistakes are visible. You can mistakenly share the wrong info and this can spoil the impression as well. That is why every person who uses email for work should know main principles of its etiquette and follow them in any situation.

12 Proper Email Etiquette Rules You Should Never Ignore

As in all our articles, we collect and analyze own experience along with the materials of our partners and competitors. Such approach allows us to create a list of dos and donts.

Rule #1: Professional Email Must Be Short and Understandable

Your main task here is to send the clear and laconic message. It both shows you value receiver’s time and helps to minimize misunderstandings. The less text you write the more quality it can be as it is easy to check it. Today people like concise letters with a clear point. There is no need for a long opening, numerous metaphors, and stories. It is not a fiction but business communication where better to get rid of unnecessary information in the advantage of the key issues. Use the less text the possible. Whether you are informing the reader or ask about – make it short if you want to follow proper email etiquette. The receiver should not waste the time and dig through your numerous thoughts and definitions to get the main idea and the purpose of your message.

However, if you have a decent reason to write a long text (very-very good one), at least set paragraphs in order to show what information is included.

Rule #2: Coherent Subject Line

Do not ignore this part. Always fill the subject line with the phase that displays the content. Moreover, the empty subject line may lead to the situations when spam checkers block the email and it will never reach the target receiver. Also, such letters are more often ignored as they do not grab the attention while person skimming through the Inbox list.

The subject line should not only attract the reader’s attention. According to professional email etiquette, it is meant to show what it is about. This is your first opportunity to inform the person and show the importance of your message. Write a question you look for an answer. The receiver has all rights to know what you have sent so subject line must be coherent to the main point of the letter. If you use the chain, make sure that the current subject line matches the email you are about to send.

Rule #3: Work Email Etiquette Supposes Using Professional Formats

Multicolored fonts and background images may be appropriate in a friendly or family correspondence, but in business correspondence, you have to use professional strict writing formats only. Firstly, the bright design may distract and even annoy the reader, which creates the obstacles for getting the main point, as we sometimes see in poor email etiquette examples. Also the more graphics data you add the bigger size of your email which is also not good in case the receiver’s internet connection is not strong enough.

However, companies use images in some cases. It can, for instance, display their logo or personalize the signature section. Such approach, on the contrary, makes the email look more professional. The main rule here is not to overdo.

Rule #4: Do not wait too long to reply

This rule does not mean you must answer every request at the moment of its delivery. No, such approach in most cases can even more harm your reputation as it may look like desperate or unprofessional. However, the same level of poor email etiquette at work can be shown by late replies.

Unless it is an emergency, set the habit to answer within 24-48 hours. This is how you will have time to do some research and think through your message. You can add this task to your timetable and keep organized. The receiver, in his or her turn, will get the answer within an appropriate period and will be able to follow the started thread of emails. And this is how you show you value person’s time. In case you are not ready to provide the requested information, notify the receiver you will reply later and set the deadline for it as well.

Rule #5: Use Auto-Responders

In case you need to leave the office for a while or you will be unavailable due to the vacation or other reasons, due to work email etiquette, try to use auto-responders to inform people who try to reach you that you cannot check the inbox for now. However, such automated messages must contain a definite info about the date you will be reachable in the workplace again and when to wait for your answer.

However, you need to be careful here. Do not use these tools only to inform the receiver that you are not available. It is useless. But needless usage of this can inform spammers that behind the email there is a real person and they can start sending you spam.

Rule #6: Do Not Overuse the Priority Flags

The second tool you need to be careful with is the “High Priority” marks. Make sure this option is not used by default. This is a good feature in emergency situations. However, basic business email etiquette warns that when you start overusing it, you will “cry wolf” and soon your trustworthiness will be doubted. On the contrary, add the “flag” only when you really-really consider it is necessary. In other cases try to show the importance of your email via subject lines.

Rule #7: Be Careful While Using “Reply All” Option

Not in every case of emailing with multiple receivers, it is appropriate to hit “Reply all” and use the same text and subject line. On the contrary, you need to adjust the reply message to every receiver. Otherwise, you may violate your reputation and gain the “business spammer” name. Then receivers will simply ignore you. Also, not every receiver needs to know that you discuss the current issues with multiple recipients. So be careful what info you disclose as well. This is what you need to know about reply-all email etiquette part.

Rule #8: Different Accounts for Business and Personal Correspondence = Different Email Etiquette

It is not a good idea to mix professional and personal relationships in most cases. The same thing is with email. The personal account may reflect your interests, sense of humor and self-perception. But for business communication addresses like “[email protected]” is not appropriate. Create a professional name account. Usually, it has to look like “[email protected]”. Avoiding unnecessary info like nicknames or references is a part of email introduction etiquette.

The other recommendation is not to send personal emails from your business account and vice versa. Having separate accounts means to distinguish what you will dedicate time to.

Rule #9: Be Considerable with Your Receivers

You must know your audience. Make sure you use the understandable language and the appropriate style considering peculiarities of the people you are emailing with. No matter in what language you communicate, French, British, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and so on, study the person’s previous messages, define the level of formality or informality and follow the example. The other part of being considerable to your receivers is to add the signature with extra contact info. You will provide them with additional options to reach you. And the last rule on this matter: never use emails to stop business relationships. It is neither polite, nor kind. Better find the time for the personal meeting. These facts about email etiquette will help you to conduct business properly.

Rule #10: Follow Proper Email Etiquette with Attachments Too

We never know what technical device will be used for receiving our message. Moreover, sometimes smartphones start downloading files automatically and can use the unplanned amount of traffic to pay for as well as slow down all other processes on the device. So in case you really need to deliver large files, ask about the appropriate option first. Otherwise, stick to the 500KB-50MB limit. In good email etiquette examples, there is a warning in the subject line or at the beginning of the letter that there are some files attached. Most mail services add the special mark on the ones with attachments, but you need to be reinsured that you will not cause any inconveniences.

Rule #11: Make Sure that Emailing is Appropriate in the Situation

No doubt, in many cases of business communication emailing is the most convenient way to share the information and solve current issues. But there are situations when it would be better to make a phone call or set a meeting rather than create a long thread of emails with tons of info. Also, other ways of communication may help to introduce yourself and set the proper atmosphere for understanding your message. Personal conversation is better for explaining complicated matters or persuading someone.

Rule #12: Check Letter Before Sending

As far as you know now what is email etiquette, after completing your letter take time to check it again before you send it. Create a basic checklist including spelling correctness, proper format and, of course, the content. Does it have something that can be excluded without harm to the main point? Do you use the appropriate style? Are you sure you will not regret sending this email later? Is it clear and the receiver will understand it properly? Press the “send” button only when you are 100%-sure everything is okay.

Final thoughts on email etiquette importance

Remember, that your emails reflect your personality. They can harm or improve your corporate reputation with the equal power. As long as they are disorganized, delivered in the inappropriate timely fashion, contain too much info or do not display the clear point, you are doomed to fail. However, all these flaws can be easily eliminated if you will remember the rules mentioned above.

And, as an addition to all mentioned email etiquette tips for managers and other businesspeople: in any field, the professionalism and courtesy are always welcomed. So set this approach as a basis for all your emails and other means of communication. Be concise and value person’s time. That is how you increase your chances to build strong and fruitful business relationships.


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