6 Tips for Minding Your Email Manners
So much business communication takes place electronically that people tend to dash off emails without thinking about them. But even with quick messages, it is important to observe some etiquette rules.
Keep these tips in mind as you compose your email messages.
1. Begin with an appropriate greeting.
If the recipient is someone you have never met before, it’s best to begin your email with “Dear.” After that first email exchange, take your cues from the person you are emailing. For example, if a journalist or client says “Hi” to me, I will say “Hi” back. I will mirror the other person’s communication style. Generally, though, you won’t go wrong if you start with “Hello,” “Good morning,” or “Good afternoon,” followed by the person’s name. Try to avoid starting a business email with “Hey” as it seems too casual.
2. Keep your email short and succinct.
Keep your paragraphs short whenever possible. People have hundreds of email to answer in a day. Most people are juggling many tasks at once and don’t have time to answer every single email. Therefore, make their job a little easier and use a memo format or bullet points especially if you are asking, or responding to, a series of questions. If your email is easy to read, your recipient will likely respond sooner rather than later.
3. Write for your client’s comfort, not your own.
“Text speak” is a no-no. Acronyms and technical jargon that is difficult to understand should also be avoided. Tailor your message for your reader. For example, you may be a Millennial but some of your clients may be baby boomers. Speak to them the way they want to be spoken to. It’s important to maintain your professionalism even after you have established a relationship with a client or customer.
4. Read your message before sending it.
Even though you have spell-check, some of your words may not be spelled correctly. For example, words like “Their” and “There” sound the same but have completely different meanings. Someone might think, “This person handles the balance sheets for my company and he can’t even spell there? What other details can he be missing?” Read and reread your message before sending it.
5. End your email with a complimentary close.
How you choose to close your email depends on the situation and your relationship with the recipient. For example, if you have a casual relationship with someone, a simple “regards” or “best” may do. In extremely informal situations, you may just sign your first name. If you are writing to someone with whom you don’t know well, close your email more formally, using “all the best,” “sincerely” or “best regards.” To show affection, use “warm regards,” or “fondly.”
6. Use a professional email signature.
Make it easy for others to contact you. In your email signature, provide the recipient with your full name, title, business name, telephone number and website address. You can even go the extra mile and provide a couple of your social media links including LinkedIn and Twitter. Always remember to keep your signature neutral: stick to one font, one size and one color. Stay away from motivational or religious quotes (unless you know your recipients extremely well).
As with any correspondence, an email is a representation of you -- your communication style, your professionalism, and yes, even your manners. To be safe, never let an email “fly” with an off-the-cuff attitude. Take time to structure your emails so that your professional image stays intact.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).