Business Email Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

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If you send out any correspondence by email, there’s a certain amount of etiquette that you need to follow. Email is too new to have the rigid conventions of formal letters but that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep to certain rules when you’re sending email on behalf of your company.

Decide on a greeting

This was easy when we wrote letters. Near enough every letter started with Dear, followed either by the person’s name or sir or madam.

If you knew the person well, you may have used their first name, otherwise it would have been Mr or Mrs and then their surname.

Email tends to be a lot less formal.

Dear has been replaced with Hello or Hi.

And I can’t remember the last time that someone apart from maybe a utility company addressed me as Mr Turlow.

It’s almost always William or even just no name at all.

You need to decide what you’re going to use in your business and then keep it consistent.

Some email programs allow you to set the greeting that’s used as default. If that’s the case for you, take a minute or two to decide what you’re going to use and then keep to it.

Decide on a sign-off

Again, when we wrote real letters, this was easy. If you’d started the letter with the person’s name, you ended it with “yours sincerely”. Otherwise you ended the letter with “yours faithfully”.

No such convention exists for email correspondence.

And it’s difficult to come up with a common sign-off that suits all situations.

I find the best way is to copy the sign-off that the person sending me the email uses. That tells me that they are comfortable with that.

So if they use “regards” – with or without the word “best” in front of it – that’s what I’ll use when I reply.

If they use something else such as “all the best” or “best wishes” then I’ll most likely use that in my reply.

The difficulty comes if they use a more chatty sign-off like “cheers” here in the UK or “speak soon” or something else equally uncommon.

It’s then a matter of deciding what fits best with the tone of the email.

Pay attention to the words you write

Emails are chattier and less formal than letters.

Which means that we run the risk of saying things that come back to bite us.

If an email is sufficiently important, type it out in a word processor and check it first before copying it into your email program. That way you don’t accidentally press the send button.

At the very least, make sure that you spell check your emails before sending them. Some email programs will highlight incorrect spellings in the same way as your word processor does.

If your program doesn’t do that, consider getting one that does, even if you have to learn a new interface.

And be careful with your sentence structure, grammar and any use of slang or abbreviations, especially if you only know the person electronically rather than face to face.

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