The average US employee spends approximately one quarter of every work week sifting through the dozens of emails we all send and receive on a daily basis. In 2019, the number of active email users globally jumped to 3.9 billion. With our current new normal, some supply chains are broken and millions of people are working from home, leading to even higher email usage as the regular catch-ups in the office now have to take place digitally. Yet, despite being stuck to our reply buttons, many of us still don’t know how and when to use email appropriately.
In fact, due to the sheer amount of emails and texts we read and write every day, we might be more likely to make unnecessary or even compliance-related mistakes—and those mistakes may have significant professional consequences.
Here are fifteen essential email etiquette rules that every professional needs to know:
1. Use a direct subject line
In many cases, people decide to open an email based purely on the subject line.
Strong subject lines are brief, descriptive, and whenever possible, action-oriented. For example, “Board Meeting moved to Tuesday, 11/21” is a stronger subject line than “meeting date changed.”
The importance of having a strong subject line cannot be stressed enough, especially if the email is being used for direct marketing purposes. Always choose a subject line that will let the receiver know you’re addressing their business issues or other concerns.
2. Use a professional email address
Obviously, having your emails deleted is the last thing you want. One of the best ways to ensure that doesn’t happen is to avoid using a non-branded or nondescript address.
If you are representing a company, you should always use the email address your company has provided for you. This instantly makes you look more credible and improves email deliverability substantially. Therefore, be prudent about choosing your professional email address.
However, if you are using a private email address (whether you are a freelancer, or just prefer to use it) you should really be careful when selecting your handle.
If you are engaged in B2B marketing, your business email address should always convey your name in order for the recipient to know where it came from and who they should reply to.
3. The “reply-all” button should be used sparingly
Nobody likes to open or read emails that have nothing to do with them, their department, or their individual responsibilities.
Ignoring unrelated emails can be hard, and the repetitive alerts can be irritating if we’re trying to focus on other tasks.
Avoid hitting “reply all” unless you know everyone included on the list really needs to receive the reply.
4. Add a professional email signature
Professional email signatures can lead to higher ROI rates if you’re engaged in marketing campaigns. It makes sense to give your reader additional information about you or your company. Usually, an email signature includes your full name, title, company name, and contact information.
You can add a little publicity too, but don’t go overboard with artwork, links, slogans or quotes. Keep your font, type size, and text color the same as the rest of your email to set a professional tone.
5. Use professional greetings
It’s important to learn how to use professional greetings when it comes to email etiquette.
Be careful when using casual greetings such as “Hey there” or “Hi everyone.” While casual, friendly greetings are appropriate in many types of emails, make sure you know what sort of audience you’re addressing.
6. Be wary of excessive exclamation points
If you are in the habit of using exclamation points, be careful to limit them when expressing your enthusiasm or excitement.
Some people tend to overuse this punctuation mark and end up using several exclamation points in the span of a few sentences. This may make the writer sound overly eager or even immature. Use them sparingly and only when it is really appropriate.
7. Be careful when using humor
Without the corresponding facial expressions or tone of voice, any humor used over email can easily get lost in translation. In fact, it is better to rather leave all forms of humor off professional email exchanges unless you know the receiver very well.
Also, something you find personally funny might not be remotely amusing to someone else. In some cases, a humor can even seem rude or hurtful, so when in doubt, it’s best to leave it out.
8. Reply to all your emails
The dramatic changes we’ve experienced this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to major transformations in the ways we conduct business. Our workplace communication is changing dramatically and how we use our email is a perfect example.
It’s hard to answer every email you receive, but it’s good email etiquette to at least try. This includes emails that were sent to you accidentally: a reply is not mandatory but it’s always good email etiquette.
Even something short will suffice: “I know you’re really busy, but I believe you sent this email to me by mistake. I wanted to let you know, so you could get it to the right individual.”
9. Always proofread before pressing send
Don’t depend solely on your standard spell checker. Your email recipients will likely notice mistakes, and while the occasional typo happens to everyone, repeated mistakes and misspellings can look sloppy.
Just like autocorrect, you can’t always trust spell-checkers. That is why Zoho presents to you Zia, our writing assistant, who not only checks your spellings but also makes contextual corrections.
10. Add the email address after you’ve composed the message
Want to avoid accidentally sending an email before you’ve finished typing and proofreading the message? It is good practice to type out your email first, then add the email address of the recipient when you are ready to send the message.
11. Double-check the recipient addresses
Do your best to be accurate and pay particular attention when you type a name from your contacts list on the “To” line. It’s unfortunately very easy to choose the wrong name, which can be embarrassing for you and the person receiving the email by accident. Also, make wise use of CC and BCC in email to avoid conversational clutter.
12. Always consider how cultural differences may affect your communication
Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach a wide range of people, and it’s easy to set up. But it can very easily lead to miscommunication due to cultural differences, especially when your recipient can’t see your facial expression or body language.
If possible, it’s a good idea to customize your message to the cultural context of your chosen recipient.
Remember, there will likely be time zone differences you need to take into account as well.
13. Keep your fonts simple and classic
Every font has its own place and time, but when it comes to business communication it is better to keep your fonts and their relevant sizes and colors simple and classic.
The most important rule of thumb is that your messages must be easy to read. It is usually best to go for an 11-point or 12-point font size and an easy-to-read sans serif such as Calibri, Helvetica, or Arial. It may seem boring, but black is the safest and easiest to read choice as far as color is concerned. Try to keep text highlighting and use of bolding, italics, and underlining to a minimum. These effects can help make important information stand out, but look chaotic when used too often.
14. Segment your communications
One of the best ways to personalize your communications is to segment your email list, to begin with. A segmentation feature is absolutely something that should come with any email marketing tool that you use.
Segmenting your email lists makes it easier for you to target your campaigns based on your customer groups, which in turn allows you to make your messages more tailored to your recipients.
15. Consider your tone
Finally, just as humor may be misconstrued, your writing tone might be easy to misunderstand without the perspective one may get from hearing your voice. As a result, it’s easy to come across as abrupt when you are simply trying to be straightforward.
Read your email out loud prior to sending it. If it comes across as negative or rude to you, it will definitely be perceived that way by the reader. If you want positive results, remember your basic manners: say “please” and “thank you,” and try not to use words that are overly-negative or dramatic.
While many businesses rely on multiple different forms of communication to collaborate effectively, email remains one of the most effective and popular means of communicating. The business world’s recent move to primarily remote work in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the business world’s reliance on email to share, organize, and store information. Innovative email platforms like Zoho Mail offer more features and functions than ever to help your team collaborate better, but the basics of email etiquette remain the same: be polite, be precise, and be professional.
We hope you found these tips helpful! If you’re interested in learning more about what Zoho Mail can do for your business, take a look at the robust collaboration features Mail offers and sign up for your free 15-day free trial today!
Author Bio: Gary Stevens
CTO of Hosting Canada, a website that provides expert reviews on hosting services and helps readers build online businesses and blogs.