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Rules for email etiquette

Do you get copied into emails that don’t apply to you? Do you have trouble reading a message because there are so many recipients in the “To:” field? If you’re a business professional, you need to be aware of some simple rules that will make you look less amateurish when it comes to email communication. You need to appear competent to your customers, remain professional in everything you send, make all messages as efficient as possible and not put your your company at risk.

Here are some of the best rules you can follow for proper business email etiquette:

Don’t write in all CAPITALS

Writing in capitals conveys that you are shouting in your message and can come across as very negative. If the email is important, consider other ways to convey your message. Using capitals can trigger a negative response and annoy the recipient.

BCC recipients or use a mail merge

Never place all the email addresses in the To: field if you are sending a mailing to a large number of contacts. Otherwise, all readers will be able to see all email addresses, which can be especially annoying when viewing an email on a smartphone. Also, most people don’t want their email address published for all to see, mainly to avoid receiving spam. By using the BCC field instead, you can hide all email addresses from your recipients, or you can use an email program like Outlook to do a mail merge that sends a unique message to every person on your list.

Never discuss confidential information

Emails are easy to copy, print and forward. It is also surprisingly easy for outside parties to intercept your emails for their own uses. If information is sensitive and you don’t want it to get out into the public sphere, don’t email it! Even if the email isn’t forwarded on to someone else, company management will be able to find out if you are sending inappropriate emails.

Be careful using abbreviations or emoticons

Abbreviations like LOL (laugh out loud) or BRB (be right back) should be saved for text messages with friends and don’t really have a place in the business world. Some people may also not understand your abbreviations. Emoticons may be a fun way of showing emotions, but you don’t know how the recipient will take them and they look very unprofessional. It’s always better to spell out exactly what you mean when you send someone an emails.

Don’t request delivery and read receipts

This is usually guaranteed to annoy recipients before they have even read your message. Also, it doesn’t always work as some recipients may have blocked the receipt function or their software might not support it. If you want to know if a recipient has received your email, ask them directly to let you know.

Include a clear, direct subject line

A good subject line might be “Meeting date changed” or “Suggestions for the proposal”. Many recipients will decide to open your email based on the subject line alone, so you need to choose one that lets them know that you are addressing their concerns or business issues.

Use exclamation points sparingly

Only use exclamation points to convey excitement. Otherwise, you come across as too emotional or immature. Remember that you are sending business emails, so it is important to be as professional as possible.

Be careful when using humor

Humor can easily get lost in translation via email as recipients don’t have facial expressions or tone of voice to guide them. It is best to leave humor out of emails unless you know the recipient well i.e. you’re friends outside of the work environment. Also, remember that just because you find something funny, it does not mean that recipient will feel the same way. If you have any doubts or are worried you might offend someone, leave humor out.

Understand that different cultures speak and write differently

Cultural difference can cause a lot of miscommunication, especially in the written form. You need to tailor your message to take the recipient’s cultural background into account. High-context cultures (Arab, Chinese or Japanese) want to get to know you before they conduct business with you, so business associates from these countries will often be more personal in their writing. However, low-context cultures (German, American or Scandinavian) prefer to get to the point quickly with less emphasis on personalization.

Aside from all of these tips, you MUST always proofread your messages before you send them. Always check that your email doesn’t have any major errors that will make you look sloppy and/or unprofessional. It is also wise to add the email address last so that you don’t accidentally send your message before you’re ready.