By Kelly Laycock
Being a known word and grammar geek, I receive tons of links from friends and colleagues to cute posts they’ve come across about poor grammar and punctuation, like this one:
But there is more to be said about writing in the workplace, and I wanted to share with you a few articles I recently came across that discuss email etiquette. I think we’ve all had that sinking feeling after you send a snarky comment meant for one particular co-worker and you realize you just hit Reply All instead. Or worse, you’ve just hammered out an emotional response and sent it before giving yourself time to cool your thoughts. If only there were an automatic pop-up before sending that says “Are you sure you won’t regret this later?”
Well, here are a few guidelines for writing business emails you won’t regret (as adapted from Business Insider online, “11 Email Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know” by Jacquelyn Smith and Vivian Giang):
- Include a clear, direct subject line. This can determine whether or not your email gets read. Plain and simple.
- Think twice before hitting “Reply All”. Seriously. It isn’t just about making a mistake like in the example above. As Smith and Giang say, “No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them.”
- Use professional salutations. Yo is not acceptable (this isn’t 1996 anymore), and Hey guys is questionable, especially for a mixed-gender group. Hi or Hello followed by the person’s name (Michael not Mike, unless you know he prefers it) is better. With more formal situations, especially if you don’t know the person, try to use their title and last name for initial contact. After that, use the name they sign the email with.
- Exclamation points (!!!) and ALL CAPS are not acceptable. Use them sparingly (if at all).
- Be cautious with humour. As Smith and Giang point out, “Humour can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions.” Their advice: When in doubt, leave it out!
- Reply to your emails – even if the email wasn’t intended for you. Acknowledgment of receipt can save you getting repeat emails later on, “I don’t know if you received my earlier email…” Likewise, if you receive something not intended for you, it is just common courtesy to let the sender know their error. Say something neutral, like: “I wanted to let you know so you can send it to the correct person.” You would be grateful if someone did the same for you, so let’s use the Golden Rule here.
- Proofread every message. This one is close to my heart. People will judge you on your poor grammar and spelling, even if it is just a mistake. Read your email a few times before sending. Aloud, if possible. When you mean, “Sorry for the inconvenience,” you really don’t want it to say, “Sorry for the incontinence.” Double-checking can save some embarrassment!
- Add the email address last. It seems so simple and yet this is truly solid advice. You can’t send an unfinished email by mistake if it has nowhere to go. Even when replying, just delete the recipient’s name until you are sure you are ready to send!
If you’re interested, check out the Business Em@il Etiquette blog for more great tips.
“11 Email Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know” by Jacquelyn Smith and Vivian Giang, Business Insider online (Sep. 3, 2014). Accessed Mar 1, 2016.