Many of us are aware that there is such a thing as email etiquette. We have all seen the countless emails which have gotten people into trouble, made questionable statements, or just come off as extremely unprofessional. It has become a virtual art to learn how to be an effective communicator in an email environment. There are no rules, social decorum, or limits written down on paper governing the acceptable use of email. However, there are certain elements of good email etiquette which we should all adhere to and avoid committing gaffes that can hurt our careers and others.
Let's explore some of these and how you can avoid them!
1. Forgetting to include a subject line
Don't forget to include a subject line at all — even if it's just one word or two that describe what your email will cover. People don't always read the entire body of an email right away, so this helps them know what to expect in case they don't read it right away (and also keeps things organized). It's important to make sure that your subject lines are clear and concise so that anyone who receives your emails will know what they're about.
2. Sending a long email without any formatting
This is a mistake that I see all the time, and it can be very annoying to read. It's best to keep emails as short as possible, but if you have to send a long email, it's important to format it so that it's readable and easy to scan. That means using bullet points, putting paragraphs in separate sections, and including attachments where necessary.
3. Not responding to emails quickly enough
The world has changed and many of us are on the move or busy with other things, but this shouldn’t mean that you take days or even weeks to reply to emails from your boss or clients. Responding quickly shows that you respect their time and are willing to put in the necessary effort to get things done. In fact, according to a study by McKinsey & Company, companies that respond within an hour have a 70% chance of winning a customer over those who don’t respond at all.
4. Sending emails with typos
It's tempting to fire off an email without proofreading it first. But if you're sending emails that have typos or other errors, it makes you look careless and unprofessional — especially if you send them to clients or superiors. Instead of rushing through emails, take a few extra minutes to read over what you've written before sending it out. If possible, ask someone else to proofread it as well.
5. You forget the attachment you mentioned earlier in the email
You're supposed to send an attachment, but you forget to attach it and send only the body of the email. This can be very frustrating for your recipient, especially if they have to go through the hassle of getting back to you just so that they could get what they need from you. Luckily Gmail has a feature which detects the words 'attachment' and warns you if you try to send an email without one, so make sure you pay attention to it!
6. Overusing "Reply All" or sending it to the wrong people
Answering all recipients of an email is a great way for coworkers to feel included in an important discussion, but it can also cause serious problems if used improperly. If you're ever unsure who should receive a reply all message, don't use it at all. And if you're sending an email to a group of people who don't need to be included in the conversation—such as external partners or clients—then add personal emails manually instead of using "reply all." Don't rely on BCC (Blind Carbon Copy), which won't notify anyone that they've been added automatically by mistake.
7. Being unclear about what you need and when you need it
Being unclear in your email about what you need and when you need it. It's easy for recipients to misinterpret vague language like "I would appreciate" or "Is this something we could do?".
If you don't include relevant details in your emails, people will struggle to understand what they're supposed to do next. For example, if someone's supposed to send something back by 5 p.m., make sure you include this information in the subject line or first few lines of text so they don't waste time looking for it later on.
How you communicate can have as much impact on your career as your skills, attitude, and work ethic. There are a lot of email mistakes out there, and to make matters worse, most people don't even know they're making them! Don't let this be you. It's easy to avoid these mistakes by becoming aware of the most common ones.