This compilation by Business Insider is aimed at professionals in the workforce, but honing email etiquette early is an important skill. The tips below will help you be a better communicator as a student and a professional, and are invaluable for graduates who are soon to be employed.
1. Include a clear, direct subject line
Examples of a good subject line include “Meeting date changed,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.” Keep it concise and to the point so people know what they are reading.
2. Use a professional email address
This rule really applies when you are not working with a campus email address, but with a personal email account. You should always have an email address that conveys your name so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. Never use email addresses that are not appropriate for use in the workplace.
3. Think twice before hitting “reply all”
No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.
4. Use professional salutations
Don’t use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, “Hey you guys,” “Yo,” or “Hi folks.” “The relaxed nature of our writings should not affect the salutation in an email,” she says. “Hey is a very informal salutation and generally it should not be used in the workplace or at school. And Yo is not okay either. Use Hi or Hello instead.” She also advises against shortening anyone’s name. Say “Hi Michael,” unless you’re certain he prefers to be called “Mike.”
5. Use exclamation points sparingly
If you choose to use an exclamation point, use only one to convey excitement, Pachter says. “People sometimes get carried away and put a number of exclamation points at the end of their sentences. The result can appear too emotional or immature,” she writes. “Exclamation points should be used sparingly in writing.”
6. Be cautious with humor
Humor can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions. In a professional exchange, it’s better to leave humor out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Also, something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else.
7. Know your audience
Miscommunication can easily occur because of cultural differences, especially in the writing form when we can’t see one another’s body language. Tailor your message depending on the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them. A good rule to keep in mind, Pachter says, is that high-context cultures (Japanese, Arab, or Chinese) want to get to know you before doing business with you. Therefore, it may be common for business associates from these countries to be more personal in their writings. On the other hand, people from low-context cultures (German, American, or Scandinavian) prefer to get to the point very quickly.
8. Reply to your emails — even if the email wasn’t intended for you
It’s difficult to reply to every email message ever sent to you, but you should try to, Pachter says. This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. A reply isn’t necessary but serves as good email etiquette, especially if this person works in the same company or industry as you. Here’s an example reply: “I know you’re very busy, but I don’t think you meant to send this email to me. And I wanted to let you know so you can send it to the correct person.”
9. Proofread every message
Your mistakes won’t go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. “And, depending upon the recipient, you may be judged for making them,” Pachter says. Don’t rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off. “One supervisor intended to write ‘Sorry for the inconvenience.’ But he relied on his spell-check and ended up writing ‘Sorry for the incontinence.'”
10. Add the email address last
“You don’t want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message,” Pachter says. “Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.”
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