The Ten Commandments of good email etiquette

The Ten Commandments of good email etiquette

The Ten Commandments of good email etiquette

Are you guilty of using poor email etiquette?

Used correctly, email can be a highly effective communication tool. However it does have its limitations, not the least of which is the “one way” nature of emailing someone. That is, to state the obvious, you are

communicating a message to others, but there is no immediate opportunity to get feedback from your audience. This might be okay if you are God, but not when you are communicating to mere mortals.

Indeed, how you write an email may well differ from how you might say it were you to do so in person. Many a relationship has been soured through incorrect use of email….and many times, quite unintentionally! Therefore care must be taken when writing emails if you want them to be effective in communicating your intended message.

Additionally it is too easy to get lazy when we write an email. We may forget certain niceties due to being busy or just because we are multi-tasking. So it pays to treat email carefully and with respect in order to maximise its effectiveness and minimise time wasting.

Email Etiquette

There are a number of email etiquette rules or guidelines you should keep in mind to ensure the email you write and send, communicates your intended message effectively.

Most of them are very much common sense but just the same, it is easy to get into bad habits with how we write our emails so maybe a few important email rules are in order.

The Ten Commandments of good email etiquette perhaps…. so here they are:

1) You shall stop and think before thou dost send an email when angry or upset

  • Best to sit on it overnight. Better still, pick up the phone. Perhaps put it in your Drafts Folder overnight and look at it again the next day. You will almost certainly revise it before you send it!
  • And here is a smart tip; don’t fill out the TO Field just in case! Finish the content of your email first. You eliminate the risk of it accidentally being sent.
  • And, obviously do not send abusive, obscene or offensive emails

2) You shall love to format your emails with paragraphs and white spaces

  • Using some basic formatting will make your emails far easier to read
  • It also ensures important ideas do not get lost within large blocks of text

3) Thou shalt not send private and confidential information in an email

  • Once you have sent it, you have lost all control over where it may end up!
  • Ask yourself, if this email became public, would I be comfortable with it? If not, don’t send it… pick up the phone instead perhaps.

4) Thou shalt ensure the subject line clearly describes the content in your email

  • There is nothing worse than getting an email with a vague subject heading that bears little resemblance to the contents of the email.
  • And one subject per email is best. This makes it easier to track threads in conversations and helps ensure important information is not missed

5) You shall keep your emails brief and to the point.

  • Dot points are very effective too. Enough said!

6) Thou shalt not copy carbon copy too many people on your email

  • Ask yourself; do they all really need to know.
  • CC’ing indiscriminately clearly impacts on the productivity of others and can make it harder sometimes to determine who is responsible for the action.

7) You should be very careful when you select “Reply-All”

  • Only use this if you really must. Once again, does everybody need to see your response?

8) Thou shalt respect the privacy of others in your holy address book

  • If you are sending emails to a group of people, consider using the BCC field rather than the TO or CC field. (BCC refers to Blind Carbon Copy)

9) You shall spell out clearly if, and when you wish to receive a response

  • This enables the recipient to plan their response and increases the likelihood of you getting an answer.

10) Refrain from using UPPERCASE words or too many exclamation marks

  • It is like SHOUTING! (See what I mean!!!)

So this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but it is certainly worth keeping these things front of mind when using email and it may pay to revisit them occasionally too. Good idea to share them with your team perhaps.

So what other email commandments would you add to this list?

Geoff Prior

Lingford Consulting – The Productivity Specialists

(Updated in September 2017)

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