Unlike the answer found in the song lyrics, email etiquette isn’t good for absolutely nothing. It’s good for absolutely everything. On a pragmatic level, it facilitates responses and productivity. On a personable level, it ensures understanding and respect.
Email etiquette, at its heart, is about putting the recipient first. If, however, one has freelanced or been in business for a certain period of time, email etiquette becomes a matter of survival. It becomes a way of organizing messages, tracking projects, and gaining responses one needs.
Anyone who has had to search through thirty emails entitled “Update” or “Good News” knows how frustrating it is to find certain information, such as login credentials or an invoice. Specificity is a golden rule of keeping an inbox under control (It’s also a principle outlined in the first Write Right e-book.). It’s a way to manage frustration levels, too.
Easy-to-read fonts placed on plain backgrounds are best. All capital letters will be read as yelling. Bold letters can have the same effect as capital letters; also, bolding every word in the email does no good. Bold lettering is supposed to draw attention to some fact or question. Bolding everything causes the important information to be lost. Bullet points or numbers can help with organizing information and highlighting what items still need responses. Paragraph breaks serve the same purpose.
Terms of Address
An easy way to show respect is to use the correct name, the correct title, and a respectful greeting. Calling someone “Mr. So-and-So” when that person is a “Ms.” or a “Dr.” is a good way to have the entire email sloughed into the trash. Using “hey” with a new business contact also is not advised. “Hey” is for people one knows well and only for ones who don’t mind that tone.
Emailing from one’s phone does not excuse one from using the general rules of spelling. First, texting language suggests impatience. Second, not everyone knows all the texting shorthand. Clarity is best served by following the basic rules of spelling and punctuation.
What are your thoughts about email etiquette? Any other suggestions you would add to the list?
Photo: tmbg47 (CC BY NC SA 2.0)