Employees, entrepreneurs and office workers send thousands of emails a day all over the world. Writing business email is one thing you have to do a lot no matter what job or which position you are in, and email etiquette is the key which can make or break your email. We are here to provide you with a complete guide of email etiquette as well as some business email writing tips so that you can ace this skill.
What is email etiquette and why do we need it?
Email etiquette is the customary, basic rules of polite and professional behavior while communicating by email. To put it in a simple way, business email etiquette is everything other than your email’s content that will show people your manners, politeness, and professionalism. There is a famous quote used in the famous Kingsman movie which says, Manners maketh man. And yes, email etiquette is what maketh your professionalism.
Writing email is a fundamental, must-have soft skill for everyone in the workplace. Through your email, your colleagues, bosses, partners or customers can have their own impression about you. Knowing proper email etiquette would help you build your reputation as someone who is credible, professional and is a pleasure to work with. By remembering and practicing the tips below constantly, your email writing skill will certainly be perfect!
The basic rules of email etiquette
1. Sender and recipient’s information:
Choose the right email address:
Before actually writing a business email, you have to know first-hand why you are writing and who you are writing to. Ask yourself: is this the company’s business or is this my own personal, private issue? Don’t let your mailbox become a mixture of these two. Therefore, choose the proper email account to send your message.
If you are writing for some workplace matters, use your company professional email address. But if you are writing for a personal meeting, asking for photos of your trip or booking your vacation hotel, use your personal email instead.
Put the right names in the To/Cc/Bcc boxes:
Distinguishing between these 3 features is a basic email etiquette not everyone is aware of. To be precise, you need to understand their meaning:
- To: This area is for your direct recipient, the one whom your email is meant for and you expect their response.
- Cc (Carbon copy): This one is for your indirect recipient, you Cc to inform them so that they acknowledge the content of this email, but they don’t need to reply to that. Everyone can see who you are sending the email to and who you Cc.
- Bcc (Blind carbon copy): Only you can see who is being Bcc. You use this when sending email to a group of contacts that don’t know each other personally, or when you want to inform someone about something without letting others know.
For example, when you are mailing a response to a client’s complaint, this part could look like this:
- To: A – The client’s employee who works with you directly
- Cc: B – The client’s boss who needs to be informed about this problem
- Bcc: Z – Your boss, who needs to know how the client’s complaint is handled, without letting the client know
Never, ever leave a blank subject – this will make people think your email is a spam and it would likely end up in their trash box. Keep your email subject clear and direct, short and simple. Let your recipient know what this email is about, why do they need to open it. Use plain phases such as ABC Company | Invitation to Collaborate or O Agency | Brief for A campaign.
Start your business email with proper business email opening. The most commonly used opening is “Dear Mr/Ms/Mrs”, followed by your recipient’s full name. Avoid saying informal words like “Hey” or “Yo” which can make you sound unprofessional.
After that, use one or two short sentences to briefly introduce yourself (if this is your first time contacting this person) and mention your reference as well, so the other know who you are, why you are writing to them. Keep it really simple and go straight to the point, pay respect to their time so that they understand your purpose. For example, My name is A, a PR Executive from ABC Company. I was referred to you by B and I am writing to ask if you are interested in a collaboration with us.
Business email structure and notes would be slightly different based on which type of business email you are writing. You can read more our blogs about different types of email to make sure your email would be well-structured and professionally written.
However, the email etiquette is the same regardless of what kind of content you are writing:
Keep a neutral, polite tone:
Your writing is a tool to express your attitude. Apparently, you don’t want to sound like an aggressive, arrogant and showy colleague. Pay some attention to how you are saying your content: choose formal expressions, use short & sharp, well-written sentences to help your recipient understand your points as clearly as possible without any difficulty. Say “please” and “thank you” when needed.
If there is more than one problem to be addressed in your email, try separating them into different paragraphs, use number or bullet point for listing. For example:
There are 3 matters I am mentioning in this email:
- About the new supplier selection process for material X: …
- About the department’s meeting next week: …
- About our up-coming exhibition: …
This way, it is easier for your reader to follow your content. It also increases your chance of getting a complete and sufficient response to your problems.
Maintain a simple format:
Remember, your business email is not your painting board. Business email is a type of document you use to communicate with others in your workplace. You can use different text colors to emphasize some important information, you can use different features to make your reader focus on some parts of the email, but everything has its limit. You can’t just turn your sentence into a rainbow.
This is a really, really basic email etiquette: use simple black text, white background. Choose default fonts (like Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana) so that everybody can read your email, no matter which platform they are using. Use bold, italic, underline when necessary. Don’t be creative, don’t over-decorate your email or your client’s gonna run away from you right now.
Proper openings make a perfect pair with proper closings. This is the last small touch to leave your recipient a nice, pleasant impression about you, so don’t forget it no matter how rushed you are. If you don’t need the other to reply anymore, close the conversation by saying “No reply necessary” or “Thank you”, “See you later in our next meeting”, “I look forward to working with you next time”. End your email with appropriate endings like “Best Regards” or “Sincerely” and sign your name.
There are two things you need to make sure here: make sure you have sufficient information in your signature and make sure you didn’t overdo it. Your signature should only be 4 – 5 line long, including the most basic information: your name, your title/company, and your contact. For example, this is how it should look like:
Nguyen Thanh Tung
Senior Audit | KPM Company
Tel: +84 999 123 456 | Email: email@example.com
Don’t put your favorite saying or life quote here, your recipient simply doesn’t need to read it.
Common mistakes in email etiquette
Emoji is becoming more and more famous and common in our day-to-day conversations, in our text messages, on numerous social networks – anywhere, just not in our business email. Using emojis in a business email would cost you a potential customer: it gives the other an impression that you are not professional enough to do business with them. I look forward to discussing the matter with you sounds much more reliable than We can discuss this later 😉, right?
In order to keep a neutral, polite tone, proper punctuation is an important part. While you may use exclamation sometimes, too much of this mark can make your recipient feel like You! Are! Being! Too! Emotional! or You! Are! Angry! With! Them!.
Another example of this common emphasis-overload mistake is using the Caps Lock unnecessarily. Be aware not to write all-caps if you don’t really need it because IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING IN THEIR FACES.
Write normal sentences with proper capitalization, punctuate nicely – that’s enough for your email.
Wait too long before responding:
This is a basic rule: don’t keep other waiting when they need your response, and it applies for replying email as well. When you receive an email, try to reply right away if you can. If you need more time to prepare a response, you can take your time, but don’t make it too long. In case you need more than 24 hours (3 days, 1 month, etc) to answer the issue addressed in the email, be nice: write them a short message to let them know how much more time they need to wait to get your response.
Being clear, prompt and updating information on time is a simple, fundamental etiquette, but not everyone remembers that. Your politeness can save others’ time and effort, and it shows that you respect them. You would want people to respect you too, wouldn’t you?
Not proofread before sending:
You may have heard this word so many times, but it never gets old: double-check, double-check, double-check. When you have followed all the email etiquettes above, the last thing that makes your email a flawless, well-mannered business email is to double-check it.
No matter how careful you have been, there still can be mistakes somewhere. Proofreading it yourself is the best way to make sure everything is perfect. Look for formatting errors, typos and most importantly, spelling or grammar mistakes before you click that “Send” button.
Email etiquette is nothing complicated but many didn’t pay attention to this, which results in poorly written email, wasting both the writer and the reader’s time. I hope these business email writing tips and etiquette would help you with your working life.
Besides, you can try to improve your English skills and knowledge while surfing webs, reading news and even writing an email with a handy, convenient yet powerful app such as eJOY. Learn English anytime, anywhere and don’t forget to take a look through our Business English blog for more great posts!