Summer School: A Crash Course in Email Etiquette

The tone-deaf email. The critical first impression riddled with typos. The missing attachment. We all have sent the message (or messages) we wished we had taken the time to better think through, and/or one that was misunderstood.

Email gaffes occur in every industry, language, and culture. So how can we safeguard against sent mail regret?

8 Tips for Smarter Sending

  1. Simple subjects: Keep your subject line clear and concise. Avoid words in all caps as you could be confused with spammers.
  2. Make introductions.

If necessary, remind your recipient who you are in a friendly way that gives context to how/where you last connected.

For example:

Hello Marc,

I enjoyed meeting you at the Regional Conference.

  1. Know your audience and carefully select:
    • Greeting: Use “Dear _____” in a more formal address (and most often used for international correspondence); Hi and Hello are appropriate casual greetings.
    • Tone: avoid strong emotions expressed through formatting (all caps) and avoid sarcasm. It is most often not well received in email form.
    • Privacy: Pay close attention to whom you copy on your email distribution. Ensure that all recipients are essential to the communication.
  2. Avoid emoticons, jargon, and slang. Use exclamation marks sparingly and preferably not in a more formal relationship.
  3. Get to the point: Your reader’s time is at a premium. Bear in mind that if your email runs too long, your message might not be read through. Provide an easy to follow structure.
  4. Proof & repeat: Spell check works to a point, but you may consider additional proofing with tools like Grammarly, available free of charge.
  5. Simple signatures: make a visual impression and include essential contact information, but be aware of the space email signatures can consume in an email chain. Remember that you can (and should) choose a shorter version of your signature for replies.
  6. Attach vs attack: Open each attachment to ensure files were saved properly. Keep attachments manageable in size (under 10MB total) and notify your recipient prior to sending larger files. Some businesses’ firewalls block external emails exceeding a certain file size. Consider sending the initial email without attachments, and use file compression programs like WeTransfer to send the attachments separately (with a polished cover letter explaining the attachments, of course).

Now what?

Try to respond to e-mails within 24-48 hours, though this may vary depending on your type of business and the relationship you have with the recipient of your correspondence. With more time-sensitive projects, response time may be much faster to ensure project milestones are met.

Looking for an etiquette guide tailored to Millennials who feel that emailing is passé, or a part of their parents’ generation?  Here is a good resource.

Whether verbal or written communication, good form is still key to getting your message across successfully and convincingly.

At Tell, we assist our clients with translating and localizing correspondence to address audiences effectively. We’d love to help your business.