Each e-mail you send reflects on your personal as well as your company’s image. There are many different etiquette rules that will differ according to the nature of the business and the corporate culture.

E-mail messaging is now the dominant form of business communication. What can and cannot be said in an e-mail? The following professional standards are expected for e-mail use:

1. Punctuation, grammar and spelling

Do not use excessive punctuation or words in upper case.

It is the equivalent of shouting in someone’s ear, just as using lowercase letters or omitting full stops or commas look lazy, and may sometimes even change the meaning of a text. If your programme has a spell-checking option, why not use it?

Take care with abbreviations and emoticons.

2. Be concise and to the point

Concentrate on one subject per message, and do not make an e-mail longer than it needs to be. Use short paragraphs, and insert lines between them.

3. To, Cc and Bcc

The addresses in the “To”-line are for people you are directly addressing. The addresses in the “Cc”-line are for people you are indirectly addressing. Copy only those who need to be copied.

When you use “Bcc”, the “To”- and “Cc”-addresses are “blind” to the “Bcc” addresses. Use “Bcc” when sending an e-mail to a large distribution list, so that recipients will not see a long list of names.

4. Reply All

Only use “Reply All” if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message.

5. High Priority option

If you overuse this option, it will lose its function when you really need it. The message may also appear aggressive.

6. Subject line

A clear subject line indicates what the message is about, and will be meaningful to the recipient as well as to you. If you need to branch off onto a totally new and different topic, it is often better to send a new message, which allows the recipient the option of filing it separately.

7. Attachments

By sending large attachments, you can annoy customers and even bring down thei e-mail system.

8. Signature

To ensure that people know who you are, include a signature that includes your title, company name, contact information, mailing address, website, telephone and fax numbers.

9. Answer swiftly

Each e-mail should preferably be replied to on the same working day or at least within 24 hours. If the e-mail is complicated, simply reply by saying that you have received it and that you will provide feedback to the sender as soon as possible.

10. An e-mail is not private

E-mails are considered company property, and can be retrieved, examined and used in a court of law. You may also inadvertently send something to the wrong party, so always keep the content professional to avoid embarrassment.

11. Read the e-mail before you send it

Reading your e-mail through the eyes of the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate comments. Remember you manners, and do not forget to say “please” and “thank you”.

12. Do not hide behind your e-mails

E-mail communication is not appropriate when sending confusing or emotional messages. Do not forget the value of face-to-face or even voice-to-voice communication.

13. Do not forward virus warnings, junk e-mail and chain letters

It is impossible to establish whether a chain letter is real or not; therefore, the best place for it is the recycle bin. Always check a reputable antivirus website or with your IT department before sending out an alarm. If a constant stream of jokes from a friend annoys you, be honest and ask to be removed from his/her distribution list.

14. E-mail Etiquette

Knowing how to write an effective email is essential to getting ahead in your career. Business writing can be a great skill to have; it aids effective communication. Communication skills and writing skills are on display when you write a letter, so having a look at sample emails and business emails can be a great place to start. Here are some email tips to help your communication in the workplace.






Updated: 26 February 2016

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