Emails are so quick and simple to send that they’re easy to take for granted. That’s why they can be a major source of miscommunication. How many emails do you receive a day that you need to respond to just to figure out what the sender was trying to ask? Do you get the answers you need when you send an email to a colleague or client?
Improve your own email communication skills by following a few professional email etiquette tips that will save you and the recipient time.
- Keep your emails brief and to the point. Nothing puts off a busy professional from reading your email like a 500-word essay to ask a single question. To prevent your emails from becoming TLDR (too long, didn’t read), include only as much information as needed. If your question needs context, such as answering a previous email, be sure to reply to that email chain and the conversation history will be there.
- Refrain from using too many ellipses or exclamation marks. Not only does it look unprofessional, but misusing punctuation like an ellipsis can cause confusion.
- Are “smileys” appropriate for professional email etiquette? 🙂 It depends on your office environment and the relationship you have with the recipient. While it might be appropriate for a close colleague, it probably isn’t ideal for a top client. If you aren’t sure, don’t use one.
- Only use “BCC” when sending out emails to a large distribution list, not to secretly include others in the conversation.
- Only include those directly involved on your “To” and “CC” lists. Your contacts will be less likely to ignore your emails if they know you only include them in relevant conversations.
- Use bullet points to make your email easy to read and respond to. If you are emailing your assistant a list of tasks for the day, putting them in bullet points will make what you need much clearer (and more likely to be completed!). This also works when you have a few questions that need to be answered — break them down and it will be easier for the recipient to reply.
- Keep to one subject matter per email. When you need to email someone on several topics, sending a separate email for each will make it much more likely for the recipient to respond. Instead of having to tackle one email on six different topics, they can address each individually. This also makes it simpler for both of you to reference later.
- Be very careful with humor. Tone of voice is difficult to communicate over email, and what sounds light and funny in your head can come across as catty and rude in an email. Sometimes a “smiley” can convey some tone, but those aren’t always appropriate (see above).
Still find your emails are running too long? The most likely solution then is to skip the email and arrange for a meeting or pick up the phone.