Emails might have taken the backseat when it comes to online communication and has been relegated to mostly just professional use. The art of writing a proper Email has been somewhat muddled and eroded over the years through excessive exposure of other messaging channels like Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, LINE, WeChat, the now ancient SMS, etc. Emails used to be written just like how you would write a snail-mail letter – orderly, with proper format and sentences ensuring its legibility; but that somehow has been thrown out the window along with the kitchen sink.
So what is proper Email etiquette? Let’s start with how NOT to write Emails:
1. Not Addressing The Person At The Start
Meeting a person for the first time and addressing them as “Hey!” or “Oi!” Rude isn’t it? Never start an email without properly addressing the person you are emailing. Follow that by a formality like “How’s your day” or some other form of small talk, or whatever you think would be positively reacted to by the recipient.
2. Not Having A Clear Subject Line
Any subject line that’s not clear, too cutesy, obscure, click-baity, only URLs, or all in CAPS, or all in lower case, is most likely to get thrashed. Everyday people get bombarded by emails of all kinds and probably have developed some kind of filter that will automatically click the ‘send to bin’ button when faced by weird mails with weird subject lines.
3. Usage Of ‘Cool’ Text Language
Typing lyke dis iz no gud. Short messaging has ruined our ability to write full sentences. Seriously. Text language shortened or purposely misspelt can be the ‘in thing’ or cool; but it aint ‘cool’ when nobody understands your Email, or view u as jst a wannabe teen8ger dat kenot type.
4. Spelling / Grammatical Errors
Oh please proofread. Yes we are all busy people with very little time, but do take a moment to proofread your Email, the body copy, subject line, and sign off, before you give the send button a whack. It will save you lots of time and effort if things get misunderstood.
5. Not Explaining Your Attachments Or Giving Attached Files Weird Names
It is only courteous to inform that you have attachments included in your email, as well as detailing out what they are. Also, do your recipient a favour by naming the files you attached properly and in line with its contents. Don’t expect the recipient to perfectly understand the items you have attached. If they don’t, do not expect them to download them.
6. Ultra Late Replies With No Apology
Reply late with no explanation or apology why you did may result in you coming off as a ‘i-don’t-care-kind-of-prick-like-attitude’. Don’t wanna be a prick? Reply your emails (especially those that are EXPECTING a reply).
7. Ridiculous Signatures
How your signature looks speaks more about you than you know. The design of your name, details about your position in office, company name, or website URL can show your professionalism and how ‘important’ you are. Reminder, keep personal phrases tactful, and no colourful text as well unless you want to look like a children’s summer camp’s newsletter.
8. Introducing A New Topic In An Email Thread
“Ok so where did have we left off, let’s talk about the marketing budget”, “Pandas and pineapples make great stuff toys!” Wait whaaaat?? Introducing a new topic in the middle of an Email thread would sound something like that. Totally unrelated subjects should have a new Email thread created to ensure a smooth communication.
9. Excessive Carbon Copying
Copying people on an Email is good to keep the communication flowing freely. If the conversation makes a turn where less people in the Email thread are involved, please don’t include the ones that have no purpose to still be receiving mail. They will hate you for it and put bugs in your lunchbox.
10. Excessive Exclamation Marks
It’s an Email, not a public internet forum or a Whatsapp thread where every reply looks like the person took one too many cans of Redbull. You may think that it will make you look ‘excited’ and ‘happy’ but instead, it will make it look more like you smoked something really good a couple of hours before.
11. No Explanation One Liners
One-liners should be best kept for lead characters in action movies. Responding to an Email with just one line like ‘Thanks’ or ‘OK’ with no explanation is just downright rude. It makes you look like someone who was just too lazy to type a full sentence. To add to that, just sending a web link with no explanation and context of what it is as well would also appear obnoxious.
Don’t confuse swearing with humour. It has the ability to appear distasteful and will make you look like some redneck hillbilly who just subscribed to an internet connection. Keep it professional please.
13. Exercising Your Novel Writing Skills
Emails are supposed to be short, succinct, and most importantly, easy to read. Nobody is up for an Email in the form of a thesis or a fiction novel. Keep it within readable limits, at most 3 paragraphs with a 200 word limit. For anything longer, include a word document attached.
Your Email Is A Reflection Of Yourself.
Every communication made through Email will have its effect of your professional reputation. If all your Emails are a nightmare of mistakes, typos, and incoherent threads; your recipients will view you as a disorganised, scatter-brained person with a don’t-care-attitude and will greatly reduce their interaction with you. Out in the working world, people’s opinions and perception of you is a big factor in determining how successful you will become.
So do it right. Write them right. Email right.