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Mind Your Email Manners

Just because email provides a way to instantaneously communicate with others to get the job done, that doesn’t mean they should be sent in haste. In fact, doing so could potentially burn some bridges with colleagues and potential clients!


Email is an integral part of our daily communication — especially for professionals — and it has been for quite some time now. In fact, many professionals have their work email sent straight to their phones, blurring the lines of standard in-office work hours. This constant flow of back-and-forth emails brings with it some interpersonal issues. Sometimes emails are written in the moment, without a second glance. This can lead to not only technical errors, but it can also cause the message to be received as rude, even if it’s unintentional. Therefore, just because email provides a way to instantaneously communicate with others to get the job done, that doesn’t mean they should be sent in haste. In fact, doing so could potentially burn some bridges with colleagues and potential clients! With the help of The Huffington Post’s Dana Sachs and her article, “9 Rules of Email Etiquette,” we have some basic rules to keep in mind when composing your next email.

1. Introduce Yourself to Strangers. If this is your first time corresponding with someone, then first and foremost, introduce yourself. Try to include a brief introduction in the subject line so the recipient knows to open the email. For example, if there is a mediator who has connected you with the person you are emailing, then include that person’s name in the subject line as well as the nature of your business. Then in the email, reiterate who you are, how you know the mediator, how they came to link you to the recipient and then what you would like to discuss. Sachs also notes that in first-time email correspondence, you should leave out “How are you,” “I hope this finds you well” and any pleasantries that may read as insincere since you do not yet know the recipient.

2. Relax Your Language. Inherently, email is a relaxed form of communication, hence why it’s so often sent in haste. Therefore, overly professional language can seem a bit misplaced in emails. On the other hand, you don’t want to write an email to a potential client or your boss that is so relaxed and casual that it comes off as unprofessional and disrespectful. Find a balance. Avoid distant and overly formal language that you might use in a cover letter when applying for a job, but don’t write it like you’re writing your brother or best friend from college.

3. Follow the Lead. If you’re not the first to write the email, and are instead responding to someone, take some cues from the sender. If he opened the email by saying “Dear so-and-so,” then you should do the same. If he just wrote your name, a dash and then entered into the substance of the email, then again, follow his lead. Many of our social behaviors are learned from others, and we adapt and change ourselves to fit into the given environment. Email is no different. Adapt your email style to fit the correspondence at hand.

4. Be Sure to Reply! Just like any form of communication, email creates gray territory. For example, it can sometimes be unclear if an email deserves a response. If you’re coming to the end of the communication, and everything that needed to be discussed has been settled, and you’re not sure if you should respond, do so anyway. Even if it’s a short reply like, “Thank you for your help,” send it anyway. This ensures that the conversation isn’t ended abruptly.

5. Be Timely. While you perhaps shouldn’t reply to an email that was sent just a few minutes earlier, you should respond within the day that the original email was sent. Letting your correspondence go to the wayside will reflect poorly on your professionalism, demonstrating that you don’t give your relations the time and care they deserve.

6. Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s. Put your best foot forward, and don’t let common syntax and grammar become an afterthought of your emails. Make sure to use correct punctuation, grammar and spelling in all of your emails, otherwise you’ll come off as unprofessional, and perhaps, just plain lazy. Sachs also included some of her own rules in this regard: Don’t use emoticons, because it’ll be hard to take you seriously afterward; don’t use all-caps, because it will either read as angry or overly excited; and finally, limit your use of exclamation points within one email.

7. Inject Your Personality. While you should keep these rules in mind when composing all of your emails, that doesn’t mean you should sound like a robot lacking a personality. Although we do recommend that you incorporate correct grammar, decent manners and professionalism, this does not mean you can’t still be yourself. Without being too forward, personalize emails with your own touch or small notes that may stray from the main purpose of the email, but show that you’re human.

8. Always Proofread! Last, but certainly not least, always proofread your emails. This will help you prevent any of the previously mentioned errors. Although you may compose your emails quickly, always go back to take a second look, this way you can find spelling and grammar errors, double check that the message is coherent and understandable and ensure that everything is reading professional and appropriate.