17 email etiquette tips

Not sure how to get your point across? Debating whether to copy someone? Follow these tips to fix some bad habits.

I’ve heard David Grossman speak and found him to be a great resource for all things related to internal communications and employee engagement.

He recently shared some great email tips to help you be more productive.

In the spirit of using email better, and helping others use email better, below are his tips—with my thoughts about them—that anyone can implement:

1. Keep your message simple and clear. Edit unnecessary words to focus your recipient on what’s most important. Short sentences and bullet points make your message easier to read on a computer screen and smartphone. It’s estimated that people read more than 40 percent of email on a smartphone.

2. Answer all questions and be proactive. Avoid wasting time with back-and-forth emails. Answer all the questions someone poses to you, and proactively answer the questions your recipient will likely ask next.

3. Respond quickly. Email is built for speed. Respond within 24 hours. If it will take longer to respond, let the sender know you received his or her email and are working on a response. You will build trust among your friends and business associates, and amaze your clients and prospects.

4. Use polite greetings and closings. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way to convey a positive tone.

5. Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Be professional and show you care. Always use spell check and proofread your emails.

6. Do not use all caps. Did you mistake the meaning of that statement because “not” wasn’t in caps? No? Neither will your recipient.

7. Don’t use special formatting, backgrounds, colored text, or emoticons. Many feel they’re unprofessional.

8. Double check for correct email addresses and attachments. Avoid being embarrassed or disseminating proprietary information.

9. Be clear in the subject line. Briefly explain the content of your message to prevent people from ignoring your emails.

10. Never send an email when you’re upset. Step away from your computer and consider how to best resolve the issue.

11. Don’t hide behind email. It feels so easy to avoid difficult conversations by sending an email, but research shows conflicts escalate more quickly and last longer over email.

12. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Email is not always the right vehicle. You should never give bad news over email. It’s best to address complex information in a face-to-face conversation; nuance is often missed over email.

13. Use the Cc field as an FYI. The Cc field means “this is for your information,” and you are not expected to take action. Cc your manager when you want him or her to know you took action.

14. Use the Bcc field for large groups of recipients. Don’t advertise people’s email addresses.

15. Only use “reply all” when appropriate. If everyone on the chain doesn’t need to see your response, why fill up their inboxes?

16. Take care when you send large files. Check with your recipient in advance to see how she would like to receive the file.

17. Avoid sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek humor. Email doesn’t convey the meaning behind these types of statements.

Which of these email tips could make a significant difference for you and those you email?

Tom Smith is director of operations and integrated marketing at Anua. He blogs at CTSmithIII’s Blog, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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