The do’s and don’ts of email etiquette

When the use of email became common in the early 90’s, the business world changed. Email now takes up a significant portion of our workday. According to a study workers spend 28 percent of their workweek reading and answering email. While we try to work faster and more efficiently, we must not forget the social rules that accompany any form of communication. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of email etiquette.

Do have a clear subject line.

Most of us have to compete with the hundreds of emails clogging our inbox every day, so the clearer your subject line, the more likely your message will be read. For example, if you’re sending a proposal to someone, be specific and write, “The Fitch Proposal Is Attached.”

Don’t forget your signature.

Every email should include a signature that tells the recipient who you are and how to contact you. Set it up to automatically appear at the end of each email. Include all of your contact details so the recipient doesn’t have to look up your address, email or phone number.

Do use a professional salutation.

Using “Hey,” “Yo,” or “Hiya” isn’t professional, no matter how well you know the recipient. Use “Hi” or “Hello” instead. To be more formal, use “Dear (insert name).” Using the person’s name in the salutation “Hello Robert”  is quite appropriate, but remember not to shorten a person’s name unless you’re given permission to do so.

Don’t use humor.

Humor does not translate well via email. What you think is funny has a good chance of being misinterpreted by the other party, or taken as sarcasm, without the accompanying vocal tone and facial expressions. When in doubt, leave humor out of business communications.

Do proofread your message.

Don’t be surprised if you’re judged by the way you compose an email. For example, if your email is littered with misspelled words and grammatical errors, you may be perceived as sloppy, careless, or even uneducated. Check your spelling, grammar and message before hitting “send.”

Don’t! overuse exclamation points.

Exclamation points and other indications of excitement such as emoticons, abbreviations like LOL, and all CAPITALS do not translate well in business communications. Leave them off unless you know the recipient extremely well. It’s also not professional to use a string of exclamation points!

It may take some practice to keep your emails professional and to the point, but you will look more polished and organized in the long run.