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How To Follow Proper Email Etiquette

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When it comes to writing emails in the professional world, you have to do it right if you want to get your message across efficiently and effectively. Below, we’ll outline all the unwritten rules that make up proper email etiquette.

White text over yellow background reads "Email Etiquette."
Knowing email etiquette is crucial for effective communication.

Did you know that a handful of unspoken rules govern proper email etiquette? They may not be explicitly written anywhere, like in a guide or book, but they’re widely known and often strictly followed.

Perhaps you’re aware of this obscure and mysterious set of rules but find yourself uncertain about the specifics. We’re here to clear up the haze by listing the key guidelines you should follow, but before we do, let’s first explain what email etiquette even means.

What Is Email Etiquette?

Etiquette is a noun that means “the customary rules of polite behavior in society, among members of a particular profession, or in a particular area of activity.” Therefore, email etiquette specifically refers to “the courteous rules people follow when communicating via email.”

It may seem silly to some that society requires these guidelines to send emails, but the truth is that they’re important. Why? Because following email etiquette is an easy way to show respect for your recipients. And when people feel respected, the effectiveness of communication naturally increases as a result. This, in turn, leads to increased productivity, higher morale, better professional relationships, and more.

Now that we know what email etiquette is and why it’s essential, let’s get to the good part: the eleven rules to follow for better email etiquette.

Eleven Rules of Email Etiquette

The rules below are primarily designed for business and professional settings. However, they can be applied to various email types, including academic and personal, and will have the same effect of strengthening communication.

1. Use a professional email address

The fact is that if you want to be taken seriously, every aspect of yourself has to exude professionalism, and this extends to your email address, too.

Moreover, if you have an unprofessional email address, you risk your message getting deleted or skipped, as one might assume it is spam.

2. Write a clear and descriptive subject line

One cannot overstate how critical it is to write a clear and descriptive subject line, especially if it’s an urgent matter.

Subject lines let the recipients know what to expect from your email. They also allow them to gauge which messages they should get to first, which is incredibly helpful if they’re short on time.

Furthermore, if you’re writing about a time-sensitive matter, it’s important to state that clearly, so the recipient knows they should read the email as soon as possible.

Subject: I hope all is well!

Subject: URGENT: Meeting rescheduled for 11/7 at 10:00 A.M.

3. Use the appropriate greeting and spell everyone’s names correctly

When writing a business email, you should make sure to use appropriate greetings, like the following:

Dear Mr. Hayes,
Hello Enrique,
Good afternoon Ms. Feinstein,

Sup, boss!

However, what’s even more important than using professional greetings is spelling everyone’s names correctly. This one seems like a given, but misspelling names is surprisingly common. Achieve correct spelling by checking the recipient's email signature or doing a quick online search. Names are a significant part of one’s identity, and getting them wrong displays a flippant attitude.

Meme shows Robert Downey Jr. rolling his eyes with text that reads "When someone spells your name incorrectly, even though it's in your email signature."
Spelling someone’s name incorrectly can be considered rude.

4. Maintain a polite tone

Whether you’re writing to express dissatisfaction, clear up any misunderstandings, or answer a question you’ve already answered hundreds of times before, you should always maintain a polite tone.

In other words, regardless of the type of email you’re writing, it’s imperative that you use courteous and professional wording. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. And other times, some people don’t even know that their email might come across as impolite. That’s why one should be aware of passive-aggressive phrases, like as per my last email.

As per my last email, the client wants this completed within the week.

As discussed, the client wants this completed within the week.

5. Keep emails as concise as possible

The well-known adage states that time is money. Most professionals agree that this is true. With that in mind, try to be respectful of the recipient’s time by writing short and concise emails. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend excessive time clearing their inbox.

Long emails often end up being skimmed anyway, potentially causing important details to be inadvertently overlooked. So, play it safe and write short emails that include only the key points of the message you intend to share.

6. Use proper formatting

Always use paragraphs and proper formatting when composing an email. Line breaks and bullet points make your email much more reader-friendly.

Hello Dylan,

I hope you’re having a productive workweek. I wanted to inform you that the weekly meeting will take place as usual, but the director of operations, Jonah Stutz, will be joining us. We’ll discuss a few essential points, including the budget proposal, the implementation of the new safety protocols, the logo redesign, and lastly, the upcoming team event. Please have an accompanying presentation prepared, as Mr. Stutz’s approval is critical for our ongoing project. Thank you!

Hello Dylan,

I hope you’re having a productive workweek. I wanted to inform you that the weekly meeting will take place as usual, but the director of operations, Jonah Stutz, will be joining us.

We’ll discuss a few essential points, including the:

  • Budget proposal
  • Implementation of the new safety protocols
  • Logo redesign
  • Upcoming team event

Please have an accompanying presentation prepared, as Mr. Stutz’s approval is critical for our ongoing project.

Thank you!

7. Give people time to respond

Sending an email to someone and expecting an immediate response is not realistic, nor is it respectful of their time. After all, replying to your emails is most likely not the sole purpose of their job. So, it’s important to have realistic expectations about response times.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sending a follow-up email if you haven’t received a reply in a timely manner. Admittedly, knowing whether someone is taking too long to respond is a delicate dance, but one you’ll eventually learn the steps to.

8. Read emails thoroughly before asking questions

Nobody likes to repeat themselves. Before you ask for clarification, make sure you have read the email (or thread) in its entirety to ensure that the answer to your question hasn’t already been provided.

Asking a question that has already been answered shows laziness or disinterest on your part.

9. Be cautious of the “Reply all” button

When someone writes an email to multiple recipients, they’ll most likely use the CC button to add all the necessary addresses.

Let’s imagine you are part of the group that received the email. You can respond either by clicking Reply or Reply all.

Reply will send your response directly to the original sender, whereas Reply all will also send it to everyone else who received the first email.

Only choose Reply all when all the recipients need to read what you wrote. Otherwise, don’t fill up their inbox with unnecessary emails. Trust us when we say that this is a huge pet peeve for many people in the professional world.

10. Consider the time when sending an email

Show consideration when sending an email. To elaborate, do not message people outside work hours. Additionally, if possible, avoid sending emails right before the end of the workday. If it can wait, then schedule it for the following morning.

If someone sees a non-urgent email right before they’re ready to leave, they might feel compelled to stay and resolve the matter, which may cause them to work overtime. This may make the recipient feel as if their time isn’t valued.

11. Proofread your emails

An email riddled with spelling and grammar errors may make the sender seem careless about their work, even if they’re anything but. The mindset is often, “If I take the time to ensure my email is well-crafted, why don’t others?” Therefore, allocate time to proofread and edit your emails to eliminate errors.

If spelling and grammar aren’t your forte, there’s nothing to worry about. You can use LanguageTool as your writing assistant, and it will ensure that all the errors in your email are corrected before you press Send.

However, LanguageTool can enhance your email etiquette in more ways than just correcting errors. It can also help you maintain a polite tone by suggesting suitable wording for professional context. With LanguageTool, you can rest assured that all names and dates are correctly spelled and formatted.

If you’re worried that your email-writing skills aren’t up to par just yet, then there’s no reason not to use LanguageTool. Try it for yourself today and start wowing your bosses and colleagues with your immaculate, expertly crafted emails!

Image shows a summarization of the rules of proper email etiquette.
These are just a few of the many rules of email etiquette.

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