Basic Email Etiquette

While email is a fast and easy form of communication, effective e-mails should adhere to certain stylistic conventions. Here’s how to avoid common electronic faux pas by following the basic email etiquette.

Basic Email Etiquette

The Header/Subject

If you’re sending a message to a group of people who may not want their e-mail addresses visible to all, use the “Bcc” (blind carbon copy) option to prevent the entire list from showing up on each recipient’s message.

The subject line gives you a brief space to get the attention of your recipient, so never leave it empty. Keep it short and descriptive; you’ll find it much easier to track e-mails at a later date. If you and the recipient are engaged in extended correspondence, consider changing the subject header to reflect the changing conversation thread.

The Body

Know the rules of good netiquette and practice them. One of the most common mistakes people make is forgetting the conventions of traditional correspondence also apply to e-mail. Include a salutation before jumping into the topic or your message may be interpreted as curt and abrupt.

In the e-world, typing in capital letters is considered shouting, so avoid it. If you use emoticons, or “smileys”, use them sparingly and be sure your recipient understands them.

Remember that e-mail lacks the context of body language and tone of voice. Humour and sarcasm often don’t come across well in this medium, so use these conversational tools with care. Don’t write anything in e-mail that you wouldn’t put in a written memo or other traditional method of communication.

Don’t include attachments unless you know the recipient will accept them. Not only can attachments carry viruses, but some servers restrict the size of the mail accepted and your message might never make it to its destination. If you wish to send an attachment, ask the recipient first if they are willing to receive it. If they reply in the affirmative, follow up with another email carrying the attachment.

If you’re forwarding, or replying to a message, include enough of the original e-mail to give context to the recipient, but remove unnecessary information. If you’ve added your response under the relevant bits of the original e-mail, say so at the beginning of your message.

Try to limit your e-mails to one page in length and single space between paragraphs for readability. Avoid using tabs to indent paragraphs, as the text may not display accurately on the recipient’s screen. Typos and spelling errors look sloppy and unprofessional, so run the spell check before you send the message.

Signing off

Include alternate methods of contact (snail mail address, phone, fax), either at the top of the body of your mail or in your signature line at the end of your message to allow the recipient options for contact. It’s a good idea to follow up a critical e-mail with a phone call.

And finally, add some warmth to your e-mail by signing off with a friendly closing, such as “Best wishes,” or “Cheers,.” Although the medium is built for speed and efficiency, you should always have time for good manners.

About Lata Tokhi

Entrepreneur, Webmaster, Writer and Editor with an Experience of over 10 years in Internet Business.