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8 Tips to Improve Your Email Etiquette

There is quite an ongoing debate on whether you still need to be so formal when communicating via email. Some think it is best to just get straight to the point in our fast-paced world and there is no necessity for courtesies anymore. However, I believe that if we continue to do so, some generations down the line will not know how to write at all anymore. Think of it as if you are going to a party. It is better to be over-dressed – you can always take the pearls off and first impressions do matter!

So, if you still believe in courtesy and do get annoyed when people you have never met before, address you with “Hi Dan”, then keep on reading for some netiquette tips!

1. Using a greeting is not old-fashioned

When sending an email, it is important to use the right greeting to address your recipient – especially if it is the first time or you do not know the person. In etiquette circles, it is still recommended to use “Dear” and “Mr., Ms. and Mrs.” along with their surname. You should then use a colon for American English and a comma in British English. You can be less formal with your greeting after you have received a response from the person. Depending on how the person signs his email (e.g. Sincerely vs. Thanks), you will be able to see if you should keep it formal or take it to a more casual level.

Using “Hello” is both professional and friendly and is considered appropriate addressing someone you know or have been associated with for a while. “Hi” is casual and conversational and more appropriate for people you have regular email communication with. But please do avoid using “Hey”. It is slang and should never be used for any professional setting.

2. Email content, sarcasm, confidential information and slang

Keeping your email content accurate and concise is important in getting your message read and understood. Keep your formatting simple. Always come across as friendly, respectful and approachable. Leave out any sort of sarcasm or exclamation marks to avoid unintended and unnecessary offense. The tone of your email should always be positive.

Remind people of who you are if you only met briefly or if it has been a while and explain to them in the email why you are writing.

If you have several items to discuss, use bullet points or send several emails for different topics. This will make it easier to find emails later in case you need to refer to certain information that was mentioned.

If you are sending an email that does not require a response, it is appropriate to include “No reply necessary” in the subject line or in the content of your email.

Refrain from sending confidential information in emails. If this information gets into the wrong person’s hands you could end up in trouble. Rather schedule a meeting and talk in person about the matter. In the same manner, use your work email address for business only. Do not use it for gossip or for your personal business.

Do not use abbreviations, emoticons or slang. Do not assume that everyone knows what they mean; aside from that, it makes you look very unprofessional.

3. Replying to Questions

When replying to emails, set the appropriate tone. It is a good idea to start by thanking the sender for their message. This shows a sense of courtesy and creates a positive beginning to your message. This is especially helpful if your response may otherwise be perceived negatively.

When replying to an email, it is important to keep the original message. If the original email contains several questions, it can be frustrating reading all the answers but having nothing to refer to. When responding to several questions, it is a good idea to write your response under each question in a different colour. This will make it easier for the recipient to read.