Business Email Etiquette: Proper from Subject to Closing

businesscommunicationskillsSending emails to your boss, your colleagues, potential customers, or anyone else you already do or potentially may do business with is fraught with many potential hazards making it a veritable minefield of professional decorum, with each inappropriate joke and incorrectly capitalized letter an invitation to disaster. Emailing is incredibly convenient and should not be seen as something that may anger someone or something to avoid but rather as an invaluable communication tool used to accomplish the goals of the company and its workers.

Below, we will discuss the various pitfalls people succumb to when emailing in a business environment and how to avoid them. From the subject line to the closing, after reading this article along with this email etiquette course, you should be ready to fire off email after email like it’s your job… because it is.

General

  1. Don’t use emails as an excuse to avoid personal contact. If you’re sending a potentially confusing email or one that may be somewhat emotional, either call the person or speak with them face-to-face.
  2. Be aware of cultural differences when sending an email to someone from another culture. Be aware that, depending on where they’re from, they may need to be dealt with in a specific manner.
  3. Try to reply to all emails sent to you. Even if it seems as though you were sent a message accidentally, you should still reply to make sure it was a mistake. Also, try to respond to emails within 24 hours of a business day. This inbox zero class will help you get your inbox to 0.
  4. Remember that email is not private. Email is considered business property and the sender of an inappropriate email can be fired. Assume the email is unsecured and will be read by everyone. It may help to create a template to send emails that you know will be consistent and ready to be read by anyone. Outlook can help do that, and this course can help you learn how to use Outlook.
  5. Finally, check over your email twice before sending it out. Not only do you want to make sure it’s clear and is spelled and written correctly, you also want to check to see if you forgot anything: subject line, correct address, any attachments you needed to send, anything that may be misinterpreted, spellcheck, etc.

Subject Line, Cc, and Bcc

  1. Make sure you use your professional email address when sending interoffice emails or emails to a customer on behalf of your company. If you work for yourself and are sending a professional email, make sure your address is appropriate, ideally something with your name in it. Conversely, don’t use your business email for personal matters.
  2. Include a clear and direct subject line. Great examples include “Proposal ideas” or “Presentation date changed.” This is what the recipient will see in their inbox and will decide if it’s worth opening based on this line, so make it count.
  3. Don’t use Bcc (blind copy) to keep others from seeing who you copied. It shows that you have nothing to hide when you directly Cc (courtesy copy) anyone receiving a copy. However, do use Bcc when sending to a large distribution list so recipient’s messages won’t be cluttered with a long list of names. Be wary with your use of Cc as overuse clutters inboxes and may annoy people. Copy only people who are directly involved.

Greeting and Body

  1. When opening a business email, salutations such as “Dear…”, “Hi…”,”Good Morning…”, “Hello…”, etc. are appropriate. Depending on how familiar you, the writer, are with the receiver, you may use their first name, their last name (with Mr., Ms. Mrs.) or a combination of the two. More rules for composing salutations for business letters and emails can be found here.
  2. Keep messages brief and to the point, concentrating on one subject per message if possible. At one point, everyone has had to wade through clunky, wordy emails that took two paragraphs to ask one question.
  3. Do not be sloppy with grammar. This is a big one. Don’t write all in caps, as IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING. Conversely, don’t write in all lower case, because that looks lazy. Use exclamation points sparingly and only to convey excitement. Overuse may indicate immaturity and over-emoting. Finally, use good grammar. Not only are you representing your company, you are also representing yourself as a competent worker. Follow traditional grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules. Also, do not use informal words such as “ain’t”, “gotta”, “coz”, etc.
  4. Don’t use fancy fonts and colors. Not only are they unprofessional, not everyone is able to display these images, especially if they’re checking email on their mobile devices.

Closing

  1. When closing out a business email, treat it as you would a business letter. Use phrases such as “Sincerely”, “Yours sincerely”, “Thank you”, “Thank you again”, “Respectfully yours”, etc. Also, don’t forget to thank the recipient for their time. Lastly, include your name and title, your employer’s name, the business’ postal address, and their phone number.
  2. In order to speed up the email writing process, use an email signature that contains your contact information. Doing this will prevent you from having to write out all of your contact information every time you compose an email. Not only does this look professional, it gives the recipient more options to contact you as well as saves you time in writing.

And there you have it: direct, inoffensive, professional-looking business emails. Hopefully your email etiquette wasn’t an issue to begin with, but it never hurts to brush up on the basics. There are more guidelines out there, and, depending on your line of business, industry-specific specifications for your business emails, but these basics should get you pointed in the right direction. Whether your business emails are interoffice, international, used for building up your own business, like in this email marketing course, or whatever it may be, keep it to-the-point, clear, and classy and you shouldn’t have any problems.