When composing a business email, it is important to leave a positive, professional impression with your recipients. How you write an email can say a lot about you as a person. It’s easy to slip into the habit of writing emails in a colloquial manner with abbreviations, slang and poor grammar, but sloppily written emails are unprofessional and you may not be taken seriously.
Following the basic email etiquette rules below will help you to achieve a good, lasting impression with your contacts.
Grammar and punctuation
Proper sentence structure is extremely important when it comes to writing a professional email. Using correct grammar and punctuation is the first place to start.
Full stops, commas, question marks; these are all things you learn in school. Use them! However, make sure you’re not overusing question marks and exclamation marks, adding !!! or ??? to the end of your sentence can come across as rude.
Writing a text message or an email to a friend in all in lowercase is fine, but when emailing a colleague or business associate, always use sentence case. Sentence case is essentially what you see on this page; starting every sentence with a capital letter.
Title case can be used for the subject line though (every word’s first letter is capitalized), as this helps your subject stand out more.
Abbreviations and acronyms should be used sparingly; sending “lol” in a business email isn’t professional. There are some acronyms that are work-appropriate and you can find a list of them here.
Presentation is key, and over-formatting an email is poor presentation. Using multiple font sizes and colors looks messy and is bad email etiquette.
Standard font size (10pt or 12pt) is the only size that should be used when composing emails. You should also avoid using multiple font sizes in the same email. Keep your font colors simple, black is the easiest color to read on all devices.
It’s recommended you use web safe font such as Arial or Calibri as these are easier to read. If you use custom fonts when sending an email, the font may not be installed on your recipient’s device, so the text will automatically change to a default font such as Times New Roman.
Try to refrain from making your text bold, italicized, or underlined, unless it is 100% necessary, as it may come across as rude or pushy. Instead, use words to emphasize your point.
Tone and formality
Unless you are familiar and friendly with the recipients of your email, it is best to avoid any humor or jokes. Tone of voice is very hard to get across in an email, so your contacts may not understand you are joking.
It’s best to stay formal for new contacts as it shows courtesy and respect. Until you know you have a friendly relationship with your contacts, writing informally in your emails may give off a bad impression.
When you are contacting someone for the first time, always address them by their salutation and surname. For example if you’re emailing Simon Peters, start the email with “Dear Mr. Peters” or “Hello, Mr. Peters”. Analyze their reply to gauge whether you can call them by their first name in your next communication.
Stay formal when signing off your emails by saying “Thank you”, “Kind regards”, “All the best” or “Sincerely”.
Each contact field has a different purpose, so it is important to use them correctly.
- To: The “To” field shows who your email is intended for, and who you expect to reply.
- CC: “CC” stands for carbon copy. This field is used for contacts you want to be aware of the email, but they do not necessarily have to reply to it. For example, if you are sending an email to an external contact, but you would also like your colleague to be aware of the conversation, you would add them to the “CC” field.
- BCC: “BCC” stands for blind carbon copy. This means you are copying in a contact, but the “BCC”’s email address will not be seen by anyone in the “To” or “CC” fields. This field can be used if you’d like someone to see the email you’re sending, but not have them respond to it.
Be wise with who you copy into an email; if it’s not entirely vital that your manager needs to see the email, copying them in will just end up clogging up their inbox.
When you click “Reply”, you will reply directly to the contact who first sent you the email. Clicking “Reply All” will include everyone in the “To” and “CC” fields from the original email.
Think before replying to an email with more than one contact. Does everyone in the email need to be aware of your reply? If not, hit “Reply” instead of “Reply All”. Be polite and don’t clutter everyone’s inbox.
Never start a new conversation in an old email chain, especially if it completely irrelevant to the previous email’s subject as this can cause confusion among your contacts.
Remember, you are representing your company in every email you send. A poorly written email is not only a reflection on you, but also a reflection on your company. Properly written emails can go a long way with business contacts, especially when forging new professional relationships. By following the rules to email etiquette, you will ensure you set a great lasting impression.