I am currently preparing to teach my kids the basics of email etiquette. My oldest son has an email account and at some point, he may need to send an email to someone besides a close friend or relative (for example, a teacher). Considering email was new technology when I was in college 15 years ago, I am not sure if email etiquette is even taught in school now. However, it's useful knowledge, especially if you plan to work in a professional business environment.
I cannot believe I am teaching anyone email etiquette, considering I have broken all the rules!
Here is my most important list. I'm using the top items on the 101 Email Etiquette Tips web site.
- Be sure your email includes a polite greeting and closing. Doing this helps to make your email not seem demanding or rude.
It is so easy to forgot to do this, especially if you know the person you're emailing well. From experience - an email without a pleasant greeting might make you seem angry or upset - when you are not.
- Spell check and proofread your emails. Emails with typos simply look unprofessional.
Oh boy, this is so important - and probably one of my most broken rules. I've learned - if the email is important - to write a draft, save it, and then spell check and proofread it for typos a few hours later or the next day.
(However, in reality, I desperately need an editor to follow me around everywhere I go.)
- Title the subject of your email appropriately. This saves the reader the time of wondering what you want.
I've learned that if you are vague with your subject or leave the subject line empty (which I sometimes do by accident), the reader might not respond as quickly.
- Write complete sentences. Random phrases and abstract thoughts might lead to misunderstanding and is poor communication.
Don't reply to emails with just one or two words that are not sentences. The reader may not understand what you are trying to communicate.
- A "thank you" or an "I appreciate your help" or "Nice to hear from you" goes a long way. Use them as often as you can!
Being pleasant in an email usually brings back a pleasant reply or a happier reader.
- Just because someone does not ask for a response, it doesn't mean you ignore them. Always reply to an email in a timely manner.
I sometimes don't reply, because of being busy, as quickly as I'd like to. However, I do think a short reply to all emails is just common courtesy.
- Keep your emails short and to the point. Save your longer emails for the telephone.
This is hard for me to do for people I email outside of my job. The time I have to email are usually the times that talking on the phone is not a good idea (night or early morning). Plus, I'm a clearer writer than speaker. So writing that 10 paragraph email comes naturally. Unfortunately, my 10 paragraph email causes serious eye rolling. So I have learned to limit myself.
I know people who challenge themselves at keeping their email to 5 sentences or less. This is something I am not quite capable of yet!
- Most important: If your email is emotionally charged, walk away from the computer, calm down, and reply at a later time.
Gmail currently has a feature that makes you solve a puzzle before it will let you send an email. This feature apparently prevents you from sending emails if you've had too much to drink. (Ha, it's called Mail Goggles.)
What email systems really need (what I really need) is some kind of device or email functionality that prevents people (me) from sending emails when angry. It is just too easy to send an email that you might regret. Just walk away and calm down.