Email Etiquette: How Not to End Up in the Bin!

Much of our communication has moved from paper to email, and this change is often blamed for a deterioration in the quality of writing and spelling. That is why, when sending an email, it is important to pay proper attention to spelling and grammar. This is not just true for professional email, it is also true for when you email your friends.

But spelling isn’t the only issue at stake here. There are lots of ways in which you can mess up electronic communication. Here is how you can avoid ending up in the recycle bin by following the rules of email etiquette.

Receiving Email

On receipt of an email that requires an answer, try to answer within 24 hours or, at the absolute latest, within four days. Check your inbox daily to avoid missing any email that needs to be answered promptly. If you leave a few days in between checks, you might be too late to reply to a time-sensitive email.

Sending Email

Subject
When sending an email, always enter something into the subject box. A clear subject lets the recipient know what the email is about. This makes it easier from them to judge how urgent the message is, so they can answer or file it accordingly.

Structure
Because you can never be sure of who else besides the recipient will end up reading your email, it is important to keep the content short, to the point, and neatly presented. The basic structure of an email is similar to that of a letter, but in electronic communication use shorter paragraphs for ease of reading. Too much white space, on the other hand, can also affect readability. The basic rules to follow are one line space after the greeting, one between every paragraph, and one before the closing.

More Structure
Divide the main content of your email into an introduction, main body, and conclusion, just like you would in a letter. In business email, stick to the matter at hand, without going off on tangents. If you need to illustrate a point with an example or story, you could consider including it as an attachment.

Multiple Recipients
When sending the same email to multiple people, add them using the BCC feature. This way you avoid sharing people’s email addresses with the other recipients.

Conflict
Using email to solve a conflict is never a good idea. It is hard to judge how your words are going to be received by the other party, and there is a chance of making your point too strongly or your message being misunderstood. Conflicts should always be resolved in person. So, before you hit that send button, ask yourself if you would back up in person what you wrote.

Sensitive Information
Another no-no in electronic communication is the sending of personal or sensitive information. It is much too easy for email to end up in the wrong hands. If you happen to receive an email containing the personal email addresses of other recipients, and you want to forward the email to a few people in your own address book, delete the email addresses of the others before you forward the message.

Finally, the most important rule in email etiquette: don’t ever take part in spamming. Forwarding email chain letters shows a lack of sophistication, and you are also putting unnecessary pressure on people’s email systems. Only forward these types of messages to friends or family members that you know will appreciate it. And never, ever forward an email chain letter to a business contact, or you might find that all your subsequent email goes straight into the recycle bin.