Most of us send dozens of emails per day, some of them for personal reasons, others for professional purposes. As Rachel Wagner, certified corporate etiquette consultant, trainer and speaker, explains, there are a few important rules to live by, especially when sending a business email.
Rule #1: Always be professional
“A business email should reflect the same style as a business letter with a greeting and a closing,” she says.
Even if the message is part of a long email string, it is good to keep a professional tone, regardless of how casual the other exchanges may be.
Rule #2: Make it brief
No one likes to read a novel of an email. To keep your reader’s attention, make your email short and to the point.
“Keep your paragraphs between two and four sentences and focus on putting your points in bullets or numbering them,” Wagner suggests. “This will make things much easier to read on a screen on smart phone.”
Rule #3: Be careful when replying
Most of us feel that we get too much email in the span of a workday. Lessen the pain for others by being selective with the “reply to all” button. Only use it when necessary, Wagner recommends. Send the email to the person it is intended for, not the whole office.
Rule #4: Re-read before sending
It can be incredibly easy to send an email quickly only to go back later and realize that your grammar was incorrect or that you misspelled a few words. Avoid these mistakes by taking a few minutes to re-read your email before sending it out, she advises.
Rule #5: Respond in a timely manner
“Try to respond in no more than 24 hours—its common courtesy,” Wagner says. “If you can’t respond fully, just write a short note saying that you are working on the request and will get back to them at a specified time.”
Rule #6: Don’t forget to attach documents
If you plan to attach a document, do it as soon as you refer to the document in the email. So often people forget to attach even when they indicate an attachment, Wagner says. It pays to attach right away so you don’t have to send a second email.
Rule #7: Avoid angry emailing
“We’ve all gotten emails that have made us bristle,” she says. “I recommend writing a response and then sitting on it for several hours, even overnight before sending. Put it in your draft box, re-read it and make sure it doesn’t sound too abrasive before sending.”
Rule #8: Know when not to send an email
When dealing with sensitive, even confidential information, consider alternatives to email such as in-person meetings and phone calls.
“Not everything should be done over email,” Wagner says. “Remember that email is not private, it can be sent to other people. So if you have a lengthy message to send or something you think may be misconstrued in writing, try an alternative mode of communication to get your point across.”