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IN AN AGE WHERE CURSIVE ISN'T EVEN TAUGHT ANYMORE, IS IT ANY WONDER THAT WE TEND TO EMAIL COWORKERS EVEN WHEN THEY'RE JUST ONE DESK AWAY?
Email has become the name of the game when it comes to professional communications. It seems simple enough—you type out a few lines, click “send,” and your message immediately lands in the inbox of whoever you were trying to reach. No wasted paper, no white-out battles, no pencil smears.
But the overall ease of emailing can sometimes lead to grammatical errors, shoddily constructed sentences, a lack of digital professionalism, or worst of all, just bad manners. That's why we're breaking down the email etiquette basics so you'll craft the perfect message, from beginning to end, every time.
1. CHOOSE YOUR SUBJECT LINE WISELY
We know you’re a creative genius, but your subject line is not the moment to shine. Make it straightforward, and include a call to action as necessary (e.g., “For Review: ABC Document”). Save more ambiguous subject lines like “It’s handled!” for messages to your pals.
2. DON’T FORGET TO SAY HELLO
Whether you’re emailing the Queen of England or your favorite coworker, you should open every message with the person’s name, as well as an optional, appropriate salutation (i.e., “hello” or “hi”—but not "what’s up," unless it's addressed to your BFF). This is your recipient’s first peek into your personality and professionalism, and diving right into your email’s main objective without first acknowledging your reader can come off as curt. Friendly's good but stifle the “Haaaaaai girl” greetings, please.
We know you’re a creative genius, but your email’s subject line is not the moment to shine.
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Your message should be clear and to the point. I once had a mentor tell me that if he had to scroll down on his smartphone in order to read an entire email, it was too long. Yikes, right? If you’re emailing about something potentially complicated or difficult to understand within a succinct paragraph or two, consider picking up the telephone instead (we know, terrifying).
4. SLOW YOUR ROLL WITH FORMATTING
Think about who you’re emailing before you decide to use bullet points or style accents, such as italics. Many government offices, for example, can't read emails in HTML, so all your formatting will get converted to plain text before delivery. In other words, a highly formatted email will end up looking like symbols soup.
On the flipside, if you’re emailing internally, sometimes formatting may be a good thing. Considering breaking a long meeting recap into clearly organized sections (bullet points, headlines, etc) to make it easy for your team to scan. Gauge your audience, then format (or don't) accordingly.
5. WRITE LIKE YOUR MESSAGE IS GOING TO BE FORWARDED TO YOUR CEO
So, yes, grammar rules apply, and no, you shouldn’t include emojis, emoticons, or (in most cases) any other anecdotal graphics. This isn’t instant messenger from the '90s or a modern-day text message. Be sure to capitalize and write complete sentences with proper punctuation. Because once your email flies out into the interwebs, truly anyone could eventually see it, thanks to the good ol’ forward button.
6. YOUR CLOSE: KEEP IT CLASSY
Always sign off with your name and an appropriate farewell. Your best bets? “Thank you,” “Best,” “Respectfully,” or some form of the latter. Don’t forget to include your signature block with correct contact information.
7. DON'T JUMP THE GUN
Above all else, make sure to proofread your email before hitting send, including who’s in the “To” line. Even if you’re in a rush to get that message out, the extra 45 seconds to proof may save you from a serious autocorrect fail that could cause problems that last far longer.
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What do you think makes for a perfect email?
Psst. We've got even more professional email tips right here.