Rules to improve email etiquette

Rules to improve email etiquette

Have you ever been put off by rude or lengthy albeit baloney opening of an email? Or no opening at all? Or have you, in a whirl of heightened emotions, sent an email you wish you had never typed? There are different ways to write effective emails. But once you have reached your addressee and convinced them with an appealing headline to click to open, what follows next might discourage them from reading on. This is where rules to improve email etiquette might help.

Reply all

It’s quite common to include as many people as you know in one email. But think first, should all the recipients be involved? Or will the email have an eyebrow- raising effect on a good share of them? This way of addressing people in a group generates more emails. And many of them likely unnecessary. So, before you start including multiple receivers, spare yourself the effort and shorten the list to the bare minimum.

Another peril of such an approach is the content of the email. What if not everyone is on the same page and this message generates more question marks in a form of a chain of emails piling up in every recipient’s inbox? Worse even, the email might address some controversial, difficult to digest matter that triggers negative emotions. What if one respondent fires off an angry email? It will set the tone for all the rest and the snowball effect will be difficult to stop.  

 In email etiquette, the number of recipients plays a role. The more the merrier, does not apply here. The fewer addressees, the easier it is to control the wave of unpleasant or ill-suited responses. It also avoids email overload. Which I believe is politeness and common sense.

Hope this email finds you well

Pleasantries are necessary but an excess of them can be exasperating. In 2020 we got used to seeing updated versions of the now worn out “Hope this email finds you well”. Yet we will continue seeing such openings in many emails to come even though they are a convention rather than genuine interest in anyone’s wellbeing.

But if you see yourself compelled to use them, being to the point and brief is key to having such conventions welcome. You may also amend them to the current situation- return from holidays, a long break to name a few. And this will make your email sound more authentic. It does not always need to be the standard greeting.

Now, the question is, what if the receiver has dropped the standard opening? You can be quite safe to drop it too. I always believed it was a sign that the two can move on to the crux of the matter and not entertain one another with hollow talk which leads nowhere.

The tone

The etiquette applies to how we express our thoughts in the body of the email. You have an attractive headline and an important matter to discuss. But what if the tone of your email is too informal, if you went overboard with emojis, if there is one too many exclamations or question marks? On top of that you highlighted some words in capital letters! Capital letters or several punctuation marks in a row usually represent hostility. The overuse of these means affects how your emails, and by extension, you are perceived. Being clear and to the point with a limited use of visuals, some difficult to decipher, might help avoid triggering emotions you would likely want to avoid feeling yourself. And this especially matters when you are at the stage of building trust. Emails showcasing bad manners are no go.

And when you did type an angry email, before you hit the end button and cause irreversible damage, let off steam. Then, read the email again. You might want to rewrite it in a friendlier tone according to these rules of email etiquette.

When to reply

How long should I take to respond? It is obvious that one email can generate multiple, needless replies, saying nothing but thank you or enjoy your weekend. And as far as I consider it sheer politeness, I do think it is better seen not to clog up someone’s inbox with emails that will end up in trash anyway. So, think first if there is any clear call to action. If you do feel like the email deserves an immediate reply, then there should be no constraints to replying on the spot. Think the reply through so you do not blurt out anything indecorous, confusing or nonsense. Instant messaging has the downside of being careless with spelling and the use of words easily misinterpreted. Consider your emotions as well. You might recall the last time you edited an unpleasant message and regretted the embarrassment after having sent it.

The power of proofreading

Feeling ashamed of that spelling error repeated in several lines? Auto corrector did its job but made it unintelligible and you failed to notice it? Proofread your text. And the more recipients of the email there are, the more crucial it is.

With hundreds of emails, we receive daily, we should strive to make them effective and courteous. And there are infallible rules to improve email etiquette that can convert next email you draft into memorable, effective, and pleasant to read.

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