Web 2.0 for Professional Use/E-Mail/General E-mail Do's and Don'ts
General E-mail Do's and Don'ts
When writing e-mails in the professional sphere, there are a number of important rules to keep in mind. By adhering to these guidelines, you and your company will look more professional and therefore receive more respect.
- 1 General E-mail Do's and Don'ts
- 1.1 Be professional. (Don’t be cutesy.)
- 1.2 Grammar & Spelling
- 1.3 Tone via E-mail
- 1.4 E-mail Ethics
- 1.5 E-mail Formatting
- 1.6 Be Concise!
- 1.7 Subject Line
- 1.8 Limit recipients
- 1.9 Attachments
- 1.10 Forwards
- 1.11 When looking for a response
- 1.12 Courtesy
- 1.13 Be responsible.
- 1.14 Legal Issues
- 1.15 When to communicate without e-mail
- 2 References
Be professional. (Don’t be cutesy.)
a. Use a formal tone.
- Especially when communicating with a stranger, a potential employer, your boss, anyone in senior management or a client.
b. Make sure your e-mail address is appropriate.
- Generally, businesses provide addresses such as JSmith@company.com. If you do not currently have a company address or you are communicating about an issue unrelated to your current employer, make sure you are not communicating for business via an unprofessional address, i.e. Sassypants557@hotmail.com.
c. No slang.
d. No emoticons.
e. No non-standard abbreviations or acronyms.
Grammar & Spelling
a. Proofread, proofread, proofread!
b. Mistakes look sloppy and unprofessional.
c. Some people recommend to leave an e-mail for a minute or two and then re-read it before sending it to ensure that everything is clearly explained and error-free.
d. Others also recommend filling in the To: field last, after you have proofread the e-mail, so as to make sure the e-mail does not accidently get sent before you have had the chance to proofread the message.#REDIRECT []
Tone via E-mail
a. AVOID ALL CAPS—it looks like you are shouting.
b. Avoid irony or sarcasm—it is not always interpreted correctly via e-mail.
a. Don’t Bcc:
- E-mail should be transparent and not used as a weapon.2
b. Cc: isn’t always appropriate either.
- Don’t use cc: as a form of pressure for the original recipient.
- Only use this option when the person in the cc: field knows why they are being copied on the e-mail.3
a. Use plain text, not HTML to ensure that your recipient can read the e-mail.
b. Control your URLS; long URLS can be reduced at www.TinyURL.com.
a. When you think it’s short enough, make it shorter!4
b. Be sure you aren’t rambling. (Partial thoughts & run-ons are confusing.)
c. Short sentences are best.
a. Do not leave the subject blank—many people will skip over an e-mail with an unknown subject.
b. The subject line is the first thing the recipient sees after your name—it is important.5
c. Summarize the message; be precise and concise.
-More personalized e-mails often evoke more response.
a. Privacy is important. Some e-mail programs provide a way to limit the e-mail addresses shown to only the recipients’.
b. Be cautious about “Reply All.” Only use this method when the information really is applicable to all recipients.
- Also, habitual use of “Reply All” can be costly if you ever intend to send information about others involved to only one person.
-Avoid whenever possible.
a. If you must attach a file, make sure it is in the most general format available.
b. Often it is a good idea to ask permission from the recipient if you can send an attachment (especially if it’s over 1 Mb).6
c. Make sure the attached file has a clear, descriptive name (i.e. “Resume-Jane Doe,” not: “myresume draft 3-edited vers.”)6
d. Resize pictures to smaller proportions before inserting them to e-mails. For step-by-step instructions on how to do this, see About.com.
-Do not forward jokes, political propaganda or spiritual enlightenment chain e-mails to anyone’s work e-mail.
a. Ask if they have a personal e-mail and send it there instead.
b. If you do forward something to “all contacts,” make sure you know who “all contacts” includes.7
c. Many people find chain e-mails annoying. Make sure your recipients appreciate your forwards.
When looking for a response
a. Make it clear that you would like a response.
b. If you aren’t getting one, write this exact e-mail (nothing more) and it usually drastically increases the reply rate:
- “I was under the impression that you were the person that ___________. Should I be trying to contact someone else?”4
c. If you get ANY type of response, even an unfavorable one, consider it a win.4
d. Only discuss one subject per e-mail.
a. Let people know their e-mail has been received.
b. Answer e-mails as swiftly as possible.
c. Set your system clock right.
d. Only mark an e-mail “high importance,” “high priority” or “urgent” if it truly is. Also beware that not all email systems will recognize this mark.
e. When replying to an e-mail, include the message thread to provide reference and context for the recipient.
f. If you receive a “flame,” or a personal attack via e-mail, make sure you take a few minutes to cool down before responding. Only respond with things that you would say to the person face-to-face.6 Remember, e-mail can’t be recalled.
a. Work e-mail is a public document.
- If you wouldn’t hang it on the bulletin board, don’t put it in an e-mail.
- E-gossip can easily be forwarded on to other co-workers, or even your boss!8
- One analogy to think of is that e-mails are like postcards—people other than the recipient can easily read them.9
b. E-mail is forever.
- Everyone involved in the transactions— the sender, the recipient and any computer system involved with transmitting the e-mail— may have copies and there is no way of knowing how long those copies will exist.
c. Know that your work e-mail may be monitored.
d. For the above reason, never e-mail a prospective employer from a work e-mail address.
e. Use current Anti-virus Software and keep it up to date.
a. Many laws associated with traditional writing DO apply with e-mail correspondence.
b. The contents of an e-mail may be copyrighted, meaning that the author of the e-mail can control how and/or when the information is used.9
c. The 1st Amendment applies to e-mail. But, so do the regulations and laws that limit free expression.9
d. Add disclaimers to your e-mails to help protect your company from liability.3
When to communicate without e-mail
a. Don’t use e-mail as a copout. If a phone call is in order, call them. Some suggest that if an issue requires more than three e-mails then it should be discussed over the phone. Another measurable mark is the length of the e-mail…over five blackberry screens or one to two print screens of information deserves a phone call.2
b. It is rarely, if ever, appropriate to discuss salary, promotions or confidential information over e-mail. Instead, send a one-line message: “I’d like to schedule a meeting about my performance. Thanks.”8
1. Dawn Rosenberg McKay, “Email Etiquette: Tips for Professional Email,” About.com, http://careerplanning.about.com/od/communication/a/email_tips.htm, (accessed October 9, 2008).
2. John Halamka, “My top 10 rules for Email Triage,” Life as a Healthcare CIO, http://geekdoctor.blogspot.com/2007/11/my-top-10-rules-for-email-triage.html, (accessed October 10, 2008).
3. “Email etiquette,” Emailreplies.com, http://www.emailreplies.com/, (accessed October 10, 2008).
4. Jason J. Thomas, “The Art of Getting Responses- 7 Cardinal Rules for Emailing Prospects,” Ezine @rticles, Web address not publishable on Wikiversity, (accessed October 10, 2008).
5. Heinz Tschabitscher, “Top 20 Most Important Rules of Email Etiquette,” About.com, http://email.about.com/od/emailnetiquette/tp/core_netiquette.htm, (accessed October 10, 2008).
6. “Top Ten Rules for Effective Netiquette,” The UCMC Job Blog, http://ulmercenter.wordpress.com/2006/11/03/top-ten-rules-for-effective-netiquette/, (accessed October 10, 2008).
7. “10 Emailing Rules When Communicating for Business,” Through the Eyes of a Recruiter, http://recruitnik.blogspot.com/2008/02/10-emailing-rules-when-communicating.html, (accessed October 10, 2008).
8. Peggy Post, “Peggy Post’s Golden Rules of E-mail Etiquette,” Good Housekeeping, http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/etiquette/email-etiquette-rules-peggy-post, (accessed October 10, 2008).
9. Todd Curtis, PhD, “Teach your child the Unwritten Rules of Email- Top 10 Email Realities,” Ezines @rticles, Web address not publishable on Wikiversity, (accessed October 10, 2008).