The Complete Guide to Email Etiquette for 2016 and Beyond

Published on December 14, 2016

It's 2016, and email is more important than ever. We exchange billions and billions of them every single day, across a variety of devices.

But are the emails that you're receiving and sending every day... actually good? 

Every email is an extension of your personal and professional brand; don’t you want it to really speak to who you are and what you’re capable of?  First impressions matter – so do the second, third, and fourth. Embarrassing errors and poor etiquette have cost countless professionals some amazing opportunities over the years. Don’t let it happen to you!

Let’s talk about what goes into a professional, high quality email in the workplace today. You never know what it could do for your business tomorrow.

The most important thing to remember? What some people consider “casual,” others consider “rude.” Always err on the side of professionalism and treat your email recipients with politeness, respect, and consideration for their time.

Whether it’s a message to a client, an employer, or a peer, everyone deserves to feel like they were worth the time and effort it takes to craft a proper, meaningful reply. And the secret? It doesn’t really take any time or effort at all to make your messages read as clean, polished, and substantive.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before the next time you hit “send:”

Ditch shortcuts, emoji, or slang

Texting and email are two different beasts, and should be treated as such. A good rule of thumb, from productivity expert Peggy Duncan – if it wouldn’t go in a memo, press release, or other “business correspondence,” then it shouldn’t go in your emails. That means that “4 u,” “gr8,” and “c ya” are all out.

Avoid one-line replies

Have you ever waited for a reply for days, only to get something like “OK” in your inbox? As Duncan says, these terse messages “do not advance the conversation in any way,” and are generally a waste of time for everyone involved. In future, you can spare yourself the hassle by adding a “no reply necessary” line to your emails, or turning simple requests into push notifications or invitations.

Proofread, proofread, proofread

Small errors in grammar or spelling could mean the difference between securing a lucrative contract and turning a hot lead cold forever. Did you get everyone’s name right? Do your sentences make sense? Is all of your punctuation in the right place? One good rule of thumb? Write your email, proofread it, and save it as a draft before adding the recipient’s address; this way, there’s no chance of accidentally hitting “send” on a sloppy or unfinished message!

Don’t overload attachments

Experts recommend adding no more than two attachments at a time. Be sure to reference your attachments in the copy of your email so they don’t get overlooked or forgotten, and be sure to give your attachments logical names – “Q3 Results” is a much more appealing name for a spreadsheet than “q3junjul2016datasetversion1,” wouldn’t you say?

If you're giving your email recipient access to a multitude of files, upload them to a cloud-based service (Dropbox or Google Drive, for example) first, and then share a link to the cloud-based folder, rather than attaching multiple individual files.

Be careful with “Reply All”

In general, unless everyone on an email train needs to know something, “reply all” is a bad bet. Instead, only message the relevant contacts. That goes for “CC” and “BCC” contacts, as well: Generally speaking, we encourage you to only send emails to the people who need to see them. Conversely, if someone is copied on the email because they do need to know the answer, be sure you're not simply clicking "reply" and dropping your "cc passenger". 

For better group communication, why not try a management tool like Slack or Asana? These services allow group chatting with none of the hassles of mammoth email threads. And speaking of which…

Clean up the “email trail”

Have you ever gotten a message that’s all but impossible to decipher, surrounded by carats, strings of unconnected text, and the body copy of replies sent two or three messages ago? Don’t let the digital detritus of countless forwards, replies, and carbon copies clutter up your messages! Before you reply, take the time to cut out old email addresses, replies, datelines, and the other visual “junk” that may accompany the body of your email; trust us, your future recipients will thank you!

Above all, remember to write for your audience. Your emails are a reflection of yourself and your business – make them work for, not against you! For more, check out our FREE ebook on Email Etiquette! We've got even more email insights for your personal and marketing needs. 

Have any other questions about getting ahead in the digital landscape? Why not put your email smarts to the test and drop us a line? We’re at the head of the class when it comes to web development, social media, email marketing, and content creation.

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