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E-mail and Modern Manners

LourdesI think it’s safe to say that most of us in the business world rely heavily on e-mail communication – and tons of it.  For some, it’s a primary source of communication and interaction with employees, clients, and other business associates.

As a communications professional who is constantly communicating with people throughout several time zones, e-mail is critical to my business.  Like many of you, I personally write and respond to more e-mails a day than make phone calls or meet people in person.  According to The Radicati Group, Inc Marketing Research Firm, the average number of emails sent and received per day is 192 (for the record, today I received 317 e-mails and probably responded to about 60% of those). It’s a job on its own.

With so much of our daily communication dependent on the magic of e-mail, I started thinking about what makes a good e-mail and why some e-mails just don’t receive the intended responses and reactions. After all, I see e-mails that run the gamut from short, sweet, brief, very specific, disorganized, unclear, exciting, disheartening, happy, “winky” and sometime downright rude.  Could a little e-mail etiquette be in order?  

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind from a person who certainly sends and receives plenty of e-mails on a daily basis.

To start off, I think it’s okay to splash an email with a little personality.  After all, if I’m reading about 300 of these a day, I want at least some of them to entertain me or make me smile. But you do have use your judgment and decide whether it’s the appropriate time and audience. If you are not sure, err on the side of caution and keep it on the straight and narrow.

Before you get started, ask yourself why you're sending this email. What's the purpose? What’s the intended response from the recipient? Sounds simple enough, but if you really think about it this way, it should help you organize your thoughts.

At minimum, all e-mails should always have:

  • A subject line that is relevant to what you are addressing in the e-mail
    • Make it easy for the person you are emailing to be able to reference this e-mail
      later. Chances are the message will get lost if you combine a separate request into
      another topic’s email chain.
  • A greeting
    • Consider the formality of the greeting based on who you are communicating with. For those who also work with international clients, keep in mind which country this person is from. Avoid any slang or informal greetings to maintain a professional tone.
    • A simple “hello”, “hi”, or “hola” will help set a positive tone
  • A purpose and full description of why you are writing

    • If you are forwarding a document or email, don’t make the recipient work to figure
      out what you are trying to say or request.
    • Be nice.  Use “please” and “thank you” and avoid any negative innuendos or accusations.If you have a gripe with someone, take it offline. Chances are that if
      you send an email with a negative tone, you will receive negative response, and
      things can escalate from there.
  • A gracious response for any information that may have been sent to you

    • Even if you did not receive exactly what you wanted, always be sure to be
      appreciative of that person’s time and efforts. And, yes, go ahead and ask
      again for what you really want (but nicely).
    • When asking someone for something, you should also always include a due date (specify time zones, if necessary) and include as much information as possible about what you are requesting so that it is easier for that person to the complete the task in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
  • A courteous sign off

    • If there is something to be thankful about, make sure to include a “thanks!” Some of my personal favorite sign offs include “Best” and “Regards.”

Just remember that the majority of the people who you make contact with on a daily basis will respond to you in either a positive or negative way based on a written piece of electronic communication, so be nice, be clear about what you need, say thank you, give a deadline, and of course always spell check.

Now, hit SEND!

I’d love to hear about your best and worst e-mails.  Please comment below or Tweet me


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This post was great. I can relate to receiving and sending emails from people in different time zones and countries. My best emails are always the ones that include a personal touch or a kind gesture and appreciation. However, there are always those emails that sounds rude and you have to fight off the want to respond back in a rude tone. Sometimes i just sit back and analyze and realize that its not meant to be rude but because of the language barrier it comes off that way. This blog post was great and very information. Thank you!

Everyone should read this! Guidelines to follow everyday!

Definitely a must-read for any email user in the workplace!

Great tips, thanks for the helpful tips and insights!

¡Excelente post! Uno de los mejores que he leído sobre este tema. Mi idioma principal es el español, así que todos estos consejos son extremedamente útiles. Sobre todo el que habla sobre resolver los temas complicados offline...¡estoy 100% de acuerdo!
Muchas gracias por compartir esta información, espero poder seguir leyendo artículos tan interesantes como este.

I really like the advice about infusing a little of your personality in light of so many generic emails received on a daily basis. One can never go wrong with the human touch if they follow your advice points - proper time and audience. The other five bullet points are very helpful, especially when organizing your thoughts for an important communication.

Well put! Anyone who writes any kind of emails should read this.

Great post. E-mail etiquette is becoming increasingly important. A lot of people don't realize the importance of those courteous few extra words, and it creates issues. Hopefully this will help!

This is my new email prayer...Thanks for the amazing tips!

Thanks! This is a great post and very true. Keep 'em coming!!

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