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Emails comprise effective corporate communication and are integral to everybody's professional life. Using commonly accepted rules for composing and sending emails avoids confusion and helps to establish you as a competent professional.
If you still cannot understand the importance of email etiquette, consider these simple statistics from McKinsey that says - 28% of the average work week of employees goes into reading and answering emails. And that's a lot of time spent on an activity that could be more important than sloppy.
On the other hand, dealing with the sheer number of emails makes an employee more prone to mistakes that can be embarrassing or cost business. This article talks about corporate email etiquette that helps to craft professional emails.
What is corporate email etiquette?
Corporate email etiquettes refers to guidelines or principles establishing the standards for composing and sending emails professionally or answering those. At the heart of email, etiquette is socially acceptable communication that includes good structure, language, grammar and tone.
Corporate email etiquettes can vary depending on the recipient, industry, company, and generation. While a casual tone works with colleagues or team members you are acquainted with, business communication with those in leadership roles and of other companies needs a well-defined professional tone.
Advantages of corporate email etiquette
Email etiquettes are a barrier to the most commonly made communication mistakes that can ruin relationships and hurt business. Here are the main advantages of corporate email etiquette:
- Professionalism: Email etiquettes convey professionalism to your clients. It shows that you are serious about the task at hand and can competently handle the challenges that come your way.
- Clarity of expression: In written communication, there's often a large margin for error between what was said and what was interpreted. Email etiquette reduces this error and ensures clarity that conveys the right message as intended.
- Efficiency: While lengthy emails can convey the message, it's always better to keep it concise to deliver the most in the least possible words. Email etiquette lays down the framework for how this can be done.
- Protection from liability: Improper framing of words or mistakes while sending mail can cause expensive lawsuits. Email etiquette acts as a check to stop errors before they happen.
20 Rules to make a perfect impression using corporate emails
Here are 20 rules you need to keep in mind while sending corporate emails:
1. Use professional language
Professional language encompasses all aspects of an email, from the introduction to the body and the salutations. It's always better to keep it formal and avoid grammatical mistakes.
The tone of the email should also be straight to the point with well-constructed sentences that deliver the entire message. It's best to avoid a casual style and stick to formal language as much as possible unless you are acquainted with the recipient.
2. Avoid vague descriptions
Well-written subject lines can justify the difference between a high click-through and what might look like spam. Subject lines need to be concise and descriptive and deliver the entire message, and in the case of marketing emails, compel the users to open the mail or take action.
If you are mailing your prospect a link to this article, a better description would be: "Essential email etiquettes you need to learn today!" rather than "Important email etiquettes".
3. Fill out the email fields properly
Once you're done composing the mail, the intended recipient's email address goes to the "To" field in the address bar. If you need to include someone else in the mail, enter their address in the "CC" bar. CC-ing someone is essential to keep the person in the loop but is not the direct recipient.
To ensure others don't know about the rest of the people tagged in the email, you can use the "BCC" to send the mail to all. BCC is a great tool to protect the email addresses of others in the mail from exposure to people on the list. Some people would rather be BCC on a mail than CC’d.
4. Call out attachments
Indicate attachments such as media files or documents wherever necessary in the email so the recipient won't overlook them. You can also call it out at the end of the email, saying, "I have attached the collaterals for X for your correspondence".
When you add someone new to a message chain, reattach the file or forward them the thread. Essential email etiquette is to avoid attaching large files such as videos or documents with heavy file sizes. Instead, you can upload the files to Dropbox or Google Drive and attach a link to the email.
5. Maintain standard font & formatting
Quirky fonts, off-beat formatting, or wild colours can be tough on the eyes. Use widely accepted fonts that help people grasp information efficiently and quickly, such as the standard black font with the standard font size. If you need to highlight the most critical information, highlight only one word or phrase in a paragraph.
6. Create an impactful email signature
Email signatures can make or break your image, and it's not an exaggeration! Even eloquently written emails with a compelling message can be ruined by a poorly designed signature that can make you seem like a rookie.
Professional email signatures give a clear image of who you are and make it simpler for people to contact you. It's also a start for them to learn more about you and your work.
While designing a signature, it's essential to keep it minimalistic and convey everything it should. Stick to the essentials such as your name, job title, company website, LinkedIn URL and phone number. You can also save yourself the stress of inputting these details individually by using an email signature generator.
7. Reply to all emails
Although we're drowning in emails daily, it's essential to reply to all messages, even the ones that aren't intended for us. Responding to emails accidentally sent to us is also good email etiquette.
While a reply isn't mandatory, sending it is a matter of courtesy and can go a long way in fostering a positive relationship with the recipient. The response to a message that wasn't intended for you could be concise and bring the matter to your subject's attention.
Here's an example of how you reply:
"I understand you are busy, but I believe this email wasn't intended for me. I wanted to let you know in case you didn't realize that it wasnt' sent to the correct person".
8. Structure email adequately
A well-structured email will have a subject line, a greeting, the body with the main message, a sign-off and a signature. Anything out of this structure is not considered professional and can even be viewed as a violation of email etiquette.
Information should always be presented in readable chunks and paragraphs, especially when there are many subjects to convey. Use bullet points to highlight essential bits of information to keep it concise and minimize the risk of information overload. Leave empty spaces between paragraphs or bits of information that you consider digestible chunks.
9. Pay attention to cultural differences
Cultural differences can lead to a lot of miscommunication, especially when a message has to be conveyed in written form. Tailor your news keeping the cultural background of your recipient in mind.
For instance, people from low-context cultures, such as the Americans, Germans and Scandinavians, would want to get to the meat of the message quickly. However, people from high-context cultures, such as the Arabs, Japanese or Chinese, would wish to have more background and context as it relates to you before they decide to do business with you.
Being on the mark with cultural differences can lead to missed opportunities or miscommunication that can end up offending the client.
10. Avoid a humorous tone
There needs to be more room for humour in professional messages. With the proper accompanying expression and tone, even the most reasonable attempt at being funny can land in the right place.
Humour is not universal; what you find funny might be downright offensive to someone; hence it's always better to stay on the safer side and dial down humour to the minimum.
Sarcasm can also be dangerous, especially in the written form, as readers often tend to interpret it oppositely as intended. Therefore unless you know your recipient well, it's best to avoid all kinds of humour.
11. Refrain from using emojis & exclamation marks
Emojis are ubiquitous in modern-day communication on social media and direct messages. Depending on the context, emojis can make a message feel more welcoming, leading to higher click-through rates. However, emojis are not strictly professional, especially in emails. Unless it suits your brand image or your recipient has used it first, refrain from using emojis.
Like emojis, exclamations are often overused in social media and personal messages. Unnecessary use of crying will lead to your recipient misunderstanding your tone. Unless you're shouting at your recipient or conveying bewildering or exciting information, there's no need to add an exclamation to the message.
12. Always proofread before sending emails
Regardless of how careful you are while composing a mail, there will always be a line that can be improved or a typo that needs correction. It's straightforward to make grammatical mistakes or lose the train of thought while composing long messages on busy days. Therefore it's essential to proofread your emails once it's done.
If necessary, read it out aloud to spot errors and typos. Double check the recipient name and address, CC and BCC fields to ensure it is going to the right people and everyone that needs to be in the loop is on it. It's also better to fill up these fields after the mail is composed and proofread so an incomplete mail is not accidentally sent.
13. Introduce yourself clearly
Every time you write an email to someone new, it's crucial to introduce yourself clearly, so they know exactly where you're coming from in the message. A good introduction in the email is just as essential in making a first impression as in an in-person meeting.
Keep the introduction concise, and avoid using any promotional tone, even when pitching to a prospect. Mention your name, job title, company name and the purpose of your email. You can also mention how you learned about the recipient, so they have a better context.
Here's an example:
"I am Pete Ross from ABC plumbing solutions. My colleague from the marketing department, John Noel informed me about a requirement you have that is right in our alley".
14. Use professional email id & salutations
People working for a company usually have work emails that convey the proper identity of the person. Suppose you have a personal email account used for work-related correspondences. The email address must be professional and give your name clearly, so the recipient knows exactly who you are.
People often have work emails repurposed email IDs from days during college or high school with quirky characters- these should be avoided to stay professional. If you don't have one, create a professional email ID with your full name and use it for all work-related activities.
Salutations can make all the difference in an email as makes a first impression and set the tone for the message. While you can use colloquial expressions such as "Hi Folks" or "Hey Guys" for close team members, it is not advisable for general emails.
Also, avoid using short-form names of people you are barely acquainted with. It's better to say "Hi Jonathan" than "Hi John" unless you're sure he prefers the latter.
15. Use correct grammar
Correct grammar usage can lead to clarity and embarrassment, especially for basic mistakes. Although occasional grammar mistakes are common, trying and keeping it flawless is essential.
People often make mistakes using words such as there/their/they're, it's/It's, effect/affect, your/you're, loose/lose, and I/me/myself. Since flawless grammar is only sometimes an option, investing in a tool such as Grammarly or Scribbr, that scans for grammar and spelling is a great idea. It's beneficial when sending long and essential emails.
16. Set out-of-office replies
Setting up an out-of-office reply or "OOO" is essential if you are unavailable for an extended period. It tells whoever is emailing you that you can respond to their emails the day you'll be back in the office.
Your OOO replies should contain essential elements such as how long you'll be unavailable and whom to contact during your absence. Avoid including unnecessary information and inform your colleagues that you have added them to your OOO replies.
17. Triple check recipient name
Check, re-check and check that you have spelt your recipient's name right. Most people don't like their name being messed up in any formal address, and it can even turn into a deal breaker, depending on the person.
All you have to do to verify is to check their LinkedIn profile name or utilize your CRM to get the correct information. Avoid using short forms of their original names and stick to full terms to keep it formal.
18. Use reply-all less often
Please resist the urge to keep everyone in the loop, although they may have been tagged in the email. Nobody wants to see unnecessary notifications in emails they may no longer have a significant stake in.
One way to figure things out is to examine all the people tagged in the email and retain only those that matter to your response. Only some people on that list need to see your answer, so refrain from replying to all the emails.
By clicking "Reply," you only respond to the person who sent you the original mail. By clicking "Reply to all," you are sending it to everyone in the "To" and "Cc" fields.
19. Track email open rates
During the prospecting stage, marketing and sales teams need to know when their emails were opened and the level of engagement they generated. Instead of sending follow-up messages inquiring about opened emails, tracking tools can be used to observe email activity.
If they have made it past the whole mail and are viewing the video, real-time analytics is a great tool to alert you to interest being shown by a prospect. You can always send a follow-up email based on their activity, making suggestions and subtle build-up to your pitch.
20. Respond promptly
Considering the number of emails we receive daily, it's only possible to reply to some of the emails all the time, on time. The trick to getting it right is to prioritize emails based on the importance of the client and the urgency of a crucial activity.
Response to colleagues and teammates can range from 12 to 24 hours, while the reaction to external contacts must be within the week the email was sent. If you are in a front-facing role, your response time should be about an hour as people have little patience to wait for a mail to resolve their problems.
Email communication is the most used form of corporate communication, and it takes a while to perfect it, especially if you are a beginner.
While it takes time to learn all the above techniques, it's essential to remember the etiquettes that matter the most in the circumstance. Glance at this list before composing your following email to ensure your email is as professional as possible.