THE BLOG

The Etiquette of a Professional Email

05/07/2014 02:04 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2014
  • Diane Gottsman Etiquette expert and modern manners authority; Owner, The Protocol School of Texas

Throughout the day professionals spend a large amount of time behind a computer screen composing and answering emails. It can become easy to get a little "lax," thinking we don't need to use spell check, opting to abbreviate instead of writing out an entire word, forgetting a signature line, or sending without a subject. These "shortcuts" can unknowingly hurt your reputation as your correspondence is a reflection of you and your company. The following tips will ensure you're sending effective content that will be noticed, read and acted upon.

  • Make your subject line do the heavy lifting. These few words often determine whether your email will get opened or not. State in simple, concise language what you are writing about. Don't try to jam four different topics and an invoice in the same email; no doubt something is bound to get lost in the shuffle. Use one or two topics per email, and state simply in the header what you will be addressing in the body. If it's time sensitive, add that phrase in the subject line as well.
  • Double-check your "TO" line. When email goes awry, it is often because a message was sent to the wrong person with a similar name. We have all heard horror stories of someone hitting "reply all" and sending off private information to a group of people who were not the intended recipients. One additional tip: leave the "TO" field blank until you are ready to send, so you don't accidentally launch the email before you are ready.
  • Use correct grammar and spelling. In business, everything you send out from your office needs to look professional. That means no abbreviations, acronyms or emoticons. Even if you enjoy a very relaxed relationship with the other person, assume your email may be forwarded; therefore, use a smiley face in careful moderation. Failing to use correct punctuation, spelling and grammar can have the unintended consequence of making you look either negligent or sloppy.
  • Get to the point quickly. A message may be very important, but reading paragraph after paragraph can be daunting to even the most dedicated email recipient. Keep it concise or you risk burying the pertinent points in a sea of words. Use paragraphs to separate your thoughts and avoid using all caps in any part of your email, even to make a point.
  • Be mindful of your tone. Choose your words carefully to avoid anything the reader could perceive as sarcasm or negativity. Be aware that a curt message or response can have the same effect. When possible, close your email with a cordial sentiment such as a "Thank you for your time", or "Looking forward to hearing from you soon".
  • Close professionally. End your email with an all-purpose phrase like "Best regards" or "Sincerely". For more informal communication, or when you have an ongoing conversation by email, just sign off with your name. Make sure every email includes a signature line at the end listing your full name and business contact information. Beware of including a quote or a line of scripture below your signature line. These personal sentiments are generally not appropriate in a business setting and can undermine your professionalism.

For more etiquette tips, read Diane's blog, Business Etiquette: Reducing Email Clutter. Connect with her here on the Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.

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