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Top Ten Email Manners

photo of womans hands typing on laptop open to gmail with a cup of tea just to the side

Tips for Crafting More Professional Emails

  1. Always Respond

    Junk mail and forwards are one thing, but you should always respond to a real message, whether it's to invite you to a meeting or a party or a hello from an old friend. Make it a goal to respond within 24 hours.
  2. What's the Story?

    Don't keep your readers in suspense. Use the Subject line to alert the receiver to the subject matter of your message—you're likely to get a faster response.
  3. Addresses Ad-nauseum

    When sending out an email to a long list of recipients, consider using an address book function that doesn't list all recipients in the "to" header. Having to scroll past a long list of addresses to get to the message itself is annoying. Plus, many people may not like having their email address displayed to others.
  4. Rapid Fire Responses

    If you only check your email once a week, let people know. Otherwise, they may take offense at not receiving a timely (which when it comes to email can mean immediate) response from you. On the other hand, don't hit the rapid response button when you're hot under the collar. Let your email simmer—overnight if necessary—and re-read it when you've calmed down. Then, decide to edit or delete.
  5. Watch Your Language

    While email culture has its own shorthand, it's best to always reread your messages before sending to make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors and that your recipient will understand any abbreviations or text speak, like IMHO or LOL.
  6. Know Your Audience

    Jokes, forwards, links to political or religious blogs or even to YouTube cat videos—be sure your intended recipient wants to receive them. In a business setting, be sure all email traffic is of the "Safe for Work" variety. NSFW material can be cause for dismissal.
  7. Avoid Spam

    When you surf or shop retail sites on the Internet, watch out for the "free newsletter" and "customer update" email check boxes. If you sign up, you will be receiving regular email that may not interest you. Or, use a separate email address for retailers.
  8. Keep it Professional

    At work, keep all personal information out of email. This isn't the venue for dissing coworkers or spilling the beans about your weekend adventures.
  9. Selectively Send

    "Send to All." Only the most relevant work-related messages should be sent to "all" recipients. Private messages, or messages that only apply to a few recipients should never be sent this way. The same is true for "Reply All": Only reply to all when everyone on the list needs to know your answer. Otherwise, just reply to the sender.
  10. Address Updates

    If you are leaving your job, be sure that your email account is closed and that incoming messages get forwarded to the appropriate person. Also, be sure to let everyone know your new email address.