Do you exchange gossip, rant, and get into spats using your work email? Maybe you shouldn't. Here's why.
Company emails can be accessed by your IT Department. Unless you're okay with your IT tech sitting down with a soda and bag of popcorn, going through the gory details of your personal life, maybe you'd want to limit the things you share.
Also, even if the IT team did not access your email and cared little about your thoughts of the day, you should think of every piece of correspondence that you send as a reflection of your personal brand. And once correspondence is sent and received, you don't get to determine how and when that information is going to be used. So, as a rule of thumb, never send anything you wouldn’t want to be identified with in public in the moment or in the future. Trust me. This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
Emails are communication tools used to exchange information within and between organizations. In this age of social media and WhatsApp, and disappearing snaps and multiple different digital communication tools, emails can feel a bit old school at times, but they continue to play an important role, particularly in the professional context and need to convey the correct tone, professionalism, and respect.
When I was younger, just entering the world of work, I did not properly grasp that there was such a thing as email etiquette, and so I did all the wrong things one could do. Well almost all. I ranted, gossiped, shared secrets, sent multiple emails and large attachments without warning, and even got into an angry spat with a colleague, sending him an angry missive which I had copied to our supervisor, his manager, the manager's VP, all the way up the reporting line, before pressing Send.
Of course I was raked over the coals for the explosive email and was sent for training after that, but like I said, all the wrong things.
And so, below I've compiled a list of guides I think can be useful when sending professional emails.
When sending an email, the following should be clear:
Always begin with a salutation: Dear Ms. X (external/formal)/ Hi Y (internal/ less formal). Other salutation openings include: Good Morning/ Good Afternoon/ Good Day.
If the gender of your recipient is unclear, you can use their entire name if it is known.
If you are writing an email to someone you have a professional relationship with, it is okay to ask them how they would like to be addressed since some recipients may not wish to be gendered, i.e. Ms. or Mrs.
Depending on the recipient and context of the email, consider following the salutation line with a collegial greeting, e.g.., I hope you’re having a productive day. This can also be shifted to the end of the email where you may close with a pleasantry.
Start with why/ the purpose of your email
Get to the point of your email in the first sentence or two and then follow with the context or applicable background information. This is to ensure that recipients who may be extremely busy can understand, at a glance, what they are being asked to do.
Emails should be brief and to the point. Write in short paragraphs, approximately 3-4 lines, for readability. Do not meander, get to the point in the first paragraph.
Consider bullet points and breaking into subsections where emails are longer.
Emojis and Abbreviations
Punctuation and Grammar
Font and Caps
Internal emails should have a standard font and size recommended by your IT team and in accordance with your company’s branding guidelines. In the absence of same, consider Arial, 11. Be consistent with your fonts.
Justified text tends to look neater and more formal than left aligned text.
Do not write in all caps, which is considered rude and can be taken for yelling.
Avoid the Reply All button. When replying to correspondence, only copy those who absolutely need to be included. For etiquette though, if you are removing other parties from an email thread, add a one liner near the beginning, explaining who has been removed and why. The same applies if new parties are added to a thread.
Try to respond to correspondence no later than 24 hours after it is received.If, for example, you are unable to provide a comprehensive response in that time, you can reply with an acknowledgement, provide an update, and give a time for when you can provide the requested information.
Addressing difficult/ emotional topics
Do not send angry/ emotional emails. If a topic is sensitive, sleep on it. Allow some time (at least a day) to pass before reviewing what you type to ensure that the content is professional, and the tone neutral before pressing send. It is always best to deal with sensitive topics in person. The written word should always be a last resort.
Attachments and Hyperlinks
When sending an email with attachments, avoid sending large megabyte size files which can overload the mailbox of your recipients. Large files can be sent as downloadable links using servers such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
When sending an email with hyperlinks, always test the link you are sending to ensure that it is working.
Creating an email thread
Sometimes, you may be called upon to send out a series of emails (a chain/ thread) on one topic. If the recipient of the email is the same person, consider using the same email thread on one topic rather than sending out individual emails. This can help with the organization of information.
Sometimes, even after taking extra care in crafting and reviewing an email, you won’t detect an error or an omission until after you press Send. Make use of the Undo Send button.
You can change the Undo Send option to 30 seconds to afford you a bit more time to review and recall an email after it is sent, if sent in error.
Well friends, those are some email etiquette guides I've learned of. What about you? Is there any other rule you follow when crafting and sending a corporate email? I'd love to know.