October 21, 2020

Email Etiquette: Every professional should know

Anshika Awasthi

Your perfectly drafted cover letter, cold email, and even warm email can be tarnished just because you missed out on some basic email etiquettes.

That one click on the “send” button without proofreading could actually make you lose your last chance with that big company, client, or even partner.

So, no matter if you’re a CEO, senior manager, or just a newbie, make sure that you always tick the checklist of the email etiquettes before you hit that send button.

But before we start, what exactly is email etiquette?

What Is Email Etiquette?

Email etiquette refers to the principles or requirements of behaviour that one should follow when drafting, sending, or answering email messages.

In simple terms, email etiquette is the code of conduct for email communication.

Now, email etiquette differs for different target audience – friends and family, superiors, partners, potential customers/partners/clients, subordinates, people who know you and people who don’t. However, one thing doesn’t change is that it represent who you are as a person or a brand and what you represent.

Why Is Email Etiquette Important?

Email etiquette is important as it reflects the sender and the receiver’s intent and values. You need to implement the etiquette rules for the following reasons – 

  • Professionalism: A well-drafted email using proper language and represents your professional image and shows that you intend to send it to the receiver and awaiting a response.
  • Efficiency: A professionally written email following the etiquette is far more efficient in communicating the argument than a poorly written email.
  • Protection from Liability: A badly drafted or sent email can bring your whole company under liability. Hence, following a proper email following etiquette can save you from pricey lawsuits.

Email Etiquette Rules

While email etiquette differs for different classes of senders and receivers, some golden rules apply to all. These rules belong to all the four stages of emailing –

  • Before Drafting
  • While Drafting
  • Before Sending
  • After Sending

Before Drafting

Preparation before you actually draft the email is vital. You need to be sure that you are representable and the email you’re sending is actually worth.

Use A Professional Email Address

It is always recommended to use an email address that conveys your name like [email protected] or [email protected] so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. 

Using an email address like [email protected] doesn’t give a professional appeal to your email.

Get Clarity

Before you start, always ask yourself these questions –

Is email the right medium for this communication?

Use email only if it is the right way to go.

Also, make sure that the other person that you intend to send the email to is willing to receive an email from you.

What’s the objective of this email?

Identify the purpose and objective of the email. It can be either of these five Is

  • Inform
  • Inquire
  • Influence
  • Instruct
  • Incite

Deciding on the objective makes it easy to zero on the subject and the narration that you’re going to use in the content.

Who Are You Sending This Email To?

People belonging to different cultures speak and communicate differently. Before you actually go on drafting the email, learn more about the person you intend to send you to email to.

Knowing the background of the recipient often helps you in using a more appropriate salutation (Dear, Hello, Salam, Namaste, etc.) and even the writing style (British English or American English).

While Preparing the Draft

Drafting is the spine of your email. You want to make sure that you choose the right person to send your email to, draft an email that sounds right, has all the information, and includes a call to action.

Use The Input Fields Wisely

  • To: This is the person or people you want to address. You include everyone responsible for a response or taking the action in the To line.
  • CC: This is the person or people you want to keep in a loop while discussing with the other person. This could be your senior or junior, the recipient senior or junior, or any other party who isn’t required to respond or take any action.
  • Bcc: This is similar to CC but the recipient is invisible to the people mentioned in this field.

Common email etiquette is to use to field when you expect a direct response from someone. Use CC field if you want to keep people in a loop or when someone isn’t the direct recipient.

Use BCC only when you send an impersonal email or an email with a large mailing list (and when you want to protect the privacy of the recipients).

Moreover, use CC if you want them torecipient to know that you’ve kept someone in loop, and BCC when you want the other way round.

Include A Clear Subject Line

Your subject line should be clear and direct. Summarize your entire email within 9 words or 60 characters and make sure to follow the subject etiquette –

  • Never use ALL CAPS
  • Provide the specific hook and describe exactly what’s in the email
  • Use punctuations wisely. Excessive use of punctuations makes the email look spam.

Use Professional Salutations

Salutations are vital. Many people stop reading the email just because the salutation doesn’t sound professional or because the email lacks salutation. Avoid informal salutations and try to use any of these –

  • Hi [Name],
  • Dear [Name],
  • Greetings,
  • Hi there,
  • Hello, or Hello [Name],
  • Hi everyone,

Make sure that you never misspell the name in the salutation. Also, never use salutations like –

  • Dear Sir or Madam,
  • To Whom It May Concern,

…as these are not personalised and might have a negative effect on the rest of the body.

Moreover, try not to use exclamations in the salutations (like Hey! or Hey, [Name]!)as these are considered informal.

Use Punctuations Wisely

Exclamations are surely a great way to attract eyes, but it is also considered to be informal and/or words in sales connotation.

Make sure the use of your punctuations complements your tonality.

Punctuations do carry meaning. Use them wisely to develop a story and narrative, but also make sure that you know the meaning and use of every punctuation before using it.

Be Cautious with Humour

Humour can backfire. Be cautious while using it.

Making a joke on coronavirus might not be a good strategy if you’re sending the email to a recipient who’s lost some someone to it.

Use humour only when you know who you’re sending your email to.

Add Recipient Email Address Last

Accidents happen, and the most usual accident while drafting an email is hitting the send button instead of saving.

Adding the recipient last saves you from this mistake.

Mind The Formatting

You need to make sure that your email is legible. Moreover, you also don’t want the recipient to feel that you’re unprofessional just because you used comic-sans in your email.

Use 10- or 12-point type classic fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. And keep the text colour to be dark that is legible enough even on small screens.

Before You Send

Drafting the email is important, but double-checking everything is also a vital email etiquette.

Proofread everything

Proofread everything and make sure that your narrative is easily understandable and your tonality to as you’ve intended it to be.

Always Run A Grammar Check

Bad grammar could ruin even a perfectly crafted sentence. Run a grammar check using Grammarly or a similar tool to rule out the possibility of grammatical error.

Recheck Your Recipient

Emails are confidential communication messages. Double-check the recipient’s email id and make sure that the entered value is correct or not.

Recheck Your Signature

Your signature not only communicates who you are but also adds trustworthiness to the email and provides the recipient other ways to connect to you.

Make sure it has all the details like the name and/or logo of the company you work with, your post, phone number, alternate email address, IM and social media channels links.

Moreover, you can also add other CTAs to your email signature before you send the email.

After You Send

The email journey doesn’t end once you hit the send button. And you should not forget about the following etiquette –

Give The Recipient Appropriate Time to Read And Reply

Never bombard your recipient with emails unless it’s really necessary. Give them appropriate time to read, think, and respond.

Remind but Don’t Push

If your email consisted of a call to action and you haven’t heard from your recipient, you can remind them using subtle phrases like –

“Is there something you don’t understand? I’d love to hop on the call to explain more”

…instead of “Awaiting your reply.” “It’s been a week; I’m waiting to hear from you”.

Understand The Signs

If the recipient declines your request or doesn’t reply after some attempts, understand the signs. Bombarding them with the usual template emails is never a good idea. If you want them to reply or perform an action, try to be more personal and choose a different strategy.

About the author

Competitive, real; loves to keep working for what it wants. An extrovert who lives by her own ideas and methods.


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