Business Email Etiquette

How to avoid pratfalls and make your business email look and read professional

Email rules the business communications roost. It's fast, efficient, mobile and less intrusive than phoning. It's also rife with inane blather, embarrassing choices and other e-foolishness that makes senders look stupid. In the nanosecond of an erroneous or unthinking click, an email can cause embarrassing, albeit unintended problems for you and your business.

Emails can be unintelligible in today's cyberspace shorthand. Messages are sent "reply to all" when that's totally inappropriate. And while email recipients are forgiving about lapses in spelling or grammar in the interest of speed, excessive informality makes many emails hard to understand.

These tips can help:

1) Keep 'em short. What's the point of speed if your emails ramble on? Office email has a specific purpose -- spur action, communicate facts, get a response -- and the odds of achieving it vastly improve if it's short and easy to grasp.

2) Compose a dynamic subject line. Subject lines are the door openers of the email world. They save both you and recipients time, get your emails read and help separate your important messages from the masses. Describe what you need in the subject line; then expand on it (but don't repeat it) in the body of your message.

3) Check your spelling. Sure, spelling spaz-outs are widely tolerated, and your office mates don't care. But emails get forwarded to clients, prospects, employees and partners, so try to look smart, not sloppy. Built-in spell checkers are no brainers.

4) Think before you click. It's way too easy to blurt something via email without thinking about it first. Temper and tone more than matter -- they are absolutely vital. Recalling an email is possible, but unlikely, so craft what you say or forward carefully -- including the list of people you send it to. Email is not private.

5) Be courteous, businesslike and responsible. Make replies timely; use an automated "out of office response" when you are away. And don't mix personal email with business email.

Get more free business tips at BizBest.

Implement email etiquette rules for your business

You'll boost efficiency, protect your business from liability and make everyone look more professional.

Master the elements of email style

With proper style and etiquette, your business emails will get the job done more effectively.

Learn about proper formatting, sending attachments and when NOT to send an email

Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) has compiled an excellent set of email do's and don't recommended by business communications experts.
OWL web site has answers to key business email etiquette questions.
  • Develop and use email templates for frequently used responses.
  • Simply reading your own email before sending it can help avoid mistakes and embarrassments.
  • When sending to a group, don't show everyone's name and email in the "To" field. Either use an email program that lets you create groups, so recipients only see the group name you've applied, or use the bcc field.
  • Do not write in capitals, and avoid the over-used URGENT and IMPORTANT.
  • Anticipate and answer questions to avoid having to exchange further emails.
  • Use proper structure and layout, and avoid using colors and inserts excessively.
  • If you are sending attachments, don't forget to attach them.