19 Rules of Email Etiquette ...

You could well be appalling or even upsetting your colleagues and business acquaintances if you arenโ€™t following standard email etiquette. With pen and paper letter writing becoming a dying art and with how easy it is to slip into text speak, many people simply forget there are rules of email etiquette.

1. Public Only

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The most important of the rules of email etiquette is to think about how you would feel if your private email made it into the public arena. If it would destroy you or dent your reputation, donโ€™t take the risk. Discuss your private matters behind closed doors. Keep everything public and professional.

2. An Introduction

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Good email manners are about treating people as you would in real life. When youโ€™re talking to someone you donโ€™t speak to on a regular basis, introduce yourself. Tell them who you are and how you came to know them. A sentence or two will suffice. You donโ€™t need to give them an excerpt from your memoirs.

3. Angry Emails

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An angry email is a dangerous email. Schools should teach people how to write emails while remaining calm. Anger remains forever. Say something one moment and people forget about it after the apology. Write it down and theyโ€™ll refer back to it forever. If you have bad news, say it in person. One of the most useful pieces of advice about emails that everyone should take heed of is to compose your angry message while your temper is flaring, but then leave it for a few hours or even until the next day. Things may look different once your temper has cooled off, and that delay could well avert a drama or a situation you really didnโ€™t mean or want to create.

4. Exclamation Marks

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Of all the rules of writing emails, knowing how and when to use exclamation marks should be a priority. After all, who enjoys knowing theyโ€™re being screamed at? Not only that, it looks incredibly immature. They donโ€™t make you look big and they donโ€™t make you look professional. Avoid them!!!!!!! (See what I mean โ€“ every single rule of grammar states just one exclamation mark is necessary)

5. Confidential Information

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Confidential information should remain confidential. Emails arenโ€™t particularly safe. For example, itโ€™s a well-known fact Gmail doesnโ€™t have any real privacy protections in place. If you lose access to your email account, your confidential information could find itself all over the Internet. And once something hits the Internet, you wonโ€™t get it off no matter how many lawsuits you try to file.

6. Respond Quickly

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Nothing is more annoying than someone who doesnโ€™t know how to compose emails and reply to them in a timely fashion. Itโ€™s damn rude to not reply to someone within 24-48 hours. Itโ€™s in the same category as someone talking to you in real life and you not even looking in their direction. Furthermore, in a work setting, an email you donโ€™t reply to could mean a lost opportunity.

7. One Liners

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No, I donโ€™t mean your jokes that really arenโ€™t funny. Weโ€™re talking about those pointless emails with just a โ€˜thanksโ€™ or a โ€˜byeโ€™. These one-word emails serve no purpose and just waste the time of both the sender and the receiver. While this isnโ€™t really one of the essential rules of email etiquette, itโ€™s good for increasing efficiency. Stick to writing โ€˜no reply necessaryโ€™ at the bottom of your emails in a professional setting. In a personal setting, the other person will likely know not to do anything.

8. Text Speak

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Good email manners shouldnโ€™t involve talking about using proper English. Sadly, we have to be reminded that proper English will take us a lot further than text speak. Never use text speak in an email, unless youโ€™re speaking to a family member or close friend. Text speak, such as โ€˜gr8โ€™ and โ€˜lolโ€™, will only leave a bad impression. Remember who youโ€™re talking to. Thereโ€™s no guaranteeing they even understand your text speak and what youโ€™re trying to say. It might save time, but it also shows you havenโ€™t put much effort into the correspondence.

9. Improper Formatting

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Formatting must be as if you were writing a letter. Keep everything clean. Avoid walls of text and try to split up your paragraphs to leave a good amount of white space. Your email should be easy on the eye. Stick to the default text and remove any excessive quotes at the bottom of the mail. You donโ€™t want to take up too much of the receiverโ€™s inbox space. Itโ€™s just how to write emails and demonstrate that you care about the other personโ€™s needs.

10. Title Clarity

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The average businessperson can receive fifty emails every day. Most of these will never be opened. Theyโ€™ll scan through the various titles and delete anything they feel isnโ€™t worth their time. Make your title as clear as possible. Make sure it isnโ€™t cryptic. Mystery wonโ€™t encourage them to read it. It will encourage them to trash it. You know how annoying it is to find reams of messages with just โ€œre:โ€ in the title box (my absolute pet hate.) With these rules of composing emails, youโ€™ll make it past the first hurdle and have your messages read.

11. Spam Filters

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Sadly, not a lot of people know how to compose emails. Spam filters have had to evolve to accommodate this. Even if your intentions are good, you can still find your messages being redirected to the spam folder. This is why you need to avoid excessive capitalization, punctuation, and lots of embedded links. Look at what spam filters tend to target and do everything you can to do the exact opposite.

12. Change the Subject

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It might be tempting to simply reply to someone you regularly correspond with by clicking their previous email. Although itโ€™s more convenient for you, it could mean your urgent email isnโ€™t opened. In a professional setting, people tend to organize their emails. If your urgent email has the subject title of a non-urgent subject, it could go unread.

13. Large Attachments

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Large attachments clog up inboxes and eat up space. Important emails from other people could bounce. Warn them before you send them anything over 500KB. And to further fulfill this most essential of rules of email etiquette, use an independent file sharing website instead. That way, you can just send them a unique link they can click. The file never has to enter their email inbox. Plus, it still gives them the choice as to whether they download it.

14. Reply All

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This is less about good email manners and more about information protection. Before clicking on the โ€˜Reply Allโ€™ button, ask yourself whether everyone really needs to read the message. Many managers have made the mistake of sending confidential company information to the whole company, and in many cases this has led to them losing their jobs.

15. Use the Phone

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The key to how to write emails is to know when you donโ€™t need to write emails. For large topics that need discussing now, or for last-minute cancellations, pick up the phone and call the person directly.

16. High Priority Option

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The rules of composing emails often miss out the issue of the โ€˜high priorityโ€™ option. Whether this is something offered by your email provider or you writing โ€˜urgentโ€™ in the subject line, use it sparingly. Youโ€™re shooting yourself in the foot by using it all the time because nobody will take it seriously.

17. Get to the Point

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Long emails arenโ€™t popular these days. People lead busy lives and they want to know everything now. It doesnโ€™t matter if your message is only two paragraphs long. If the content density is high, your recipient will appreciate it.

18. Social Position

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Write your email based on the personโ€™s social position. If youโ€™re talking to your manager, refer to them with a professional tone. Even open the email with โ€˜Mr XXXโ€™ to maintain the correct level of formality. And this isnโ€™t the only part of how to compose emails. If youโ€™re too informal in a casual setting youโ€™ll come off as disrespectful.

19. Your Reflection

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Finally, understand that every email is a reflection of who you are as a person. If your email is littered with spelling mistakes, youโ€™re telling people youโ€™re sloppy and lazy. Ask yourself whether the message is a true reflection of you and the persona you want to present each time you send an email.

Just because technology has made our communications so much quicker and easier, it shouldnโ€™t mean we forget our manners. Email etiquette means treating people with respect, using the system to its many advantages and presenting yourself how youโ€™d like to be perceived. How do you feel about this? Do you simply open the message and type away not giving any thought to the rules of writing emails?

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