Email etiquette

So you’ve launched your website. How do you write a proper email to communicate with your customers? Emailing responses to customers’ specific needs can be a daunting task, especially with the vast amount of spam and short attention spans these days.

How can you make the judgement of when to pick up the phone and when to email? Think of it like this: If you do not have a direct phone number, but do have a direct email address, then in order to reach your contact without a gatekeeper, email is the better path. Also, if your recipient is halfway around the globe in another timezone, sending an email gives them the opportunity to view it on their terms, when they have a free moment to read and respond.

Is your communication of a sensitive legal issue? Putting everything into writing is the best way to maintain a legal record and be crystal clear on what you want to say.

From traveling on the road to saving money on postage, email works best in so many instances. These days, while we have the option of snail mail and the telephone, email is our default manner of business communication.

Find out how to avoid being tagged as spam while keeping your contacts engaged with Namecheap’s guide to email etiquette and protocol.


The Basics

For business email etiquette, let’s start off with the basics. Regardless of whether you’re sending an email, old-fashioned letter writing or even a text, professionals all communicate with a certain degree of formality in language. Respond with courtesy, pleasantries and directness and you’ll be on your way to a beneficial business relationship.

Subject Lines

A good subject line will almost guarantee your contact will open your email immediately. In a competition for eyeballs, the clearer your subject line, the better. Write your subject field in a clear, concise manner. Never use all caps or all lower-case as this not only looks unprofessional, but will most likely get you flagged as spam.

Below are some examples of short but specific subject lines:

  • Introducing John Smith to your Agency

  • Following up from XYZ Conference

  • Nice to meet you at the XYZ Forum last week

  • Reminder: Business Dinner Hyatt Hotel this Tuesday

  • Your experience with Zone Hotels, share with us!

  • Attn: Mr. Smith: Follow up from our meeting last week

  • As requested, contract XYZ information enclosed

Body copy

The golden rule is to keep it short and sweet. Using a friendly tone of voice, keep to the subject matter in your headline and don’t ramble off-topic. If there are main points to get across, feel free to use bullet points, or a numbered list.

Think about being the recipient of your email and how that person’s day is most likely as busy as yours. Ask yourself how this message will be the most productive for all parties involved.

Create a standard for yourself to follow in most cases. Include a pleasant greeting, the reason for your message, a request or call to action, and a practical closer. You’ll find this formula can be adapted for many instances across professional communications.

Signatures

Set your email to auto-respond with your signature at the bottom of each message. This presents a consistent, professional image across all communications. Include your full name, job title, business and methods of communication. You should list not only your email, but your website and phone number. Make it easy for your contacts to stay in touch and if applicable follow you on Social Media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can all be included if these accounts feature your business (not personal).

Sending Attachments

We can’t stress this enough: Do not send large files without asking first. If you have a large file to send, ask in a preliminary message to see if the recipient’s email server can handle the incoming message. If not, ask them if there is a preferred method, whether its Dropbox, WeTransfer or any other separate file-sharing delivery service.

If you must send attachments in your email, keep it to a maximum of three.


Formality & Familiarity

The importance of formal language varies from profession to culture, therefore it is best to err on the side of good email manners with your customers, especially in the initial stages of contact.

Greetings & Salutations

Until someone says “Call me Dave!”, start off with a basic polite but formal tone.

  • Depending on the profession, you can begin with the traditional

    • Dear Mr. Jones,

    • Hello Mrs. Smith,

  • Professional but cordial

    • Greetings Mary,

  • More Familiar

    • Hi John,

  • Avoid

    • Hey!

    • To whom it may concern (unless it truly is a blind email to an ‘info@‘ address with no specific name attached)

These are standard polite formalities that are universally appreciated, and until a familiar rapport is built, it is always recommended to begin with formality without assuming a close friendship.

BaTone of Voice: Keeping it Clear & Friendly

Professional relationships rely on the tone of voice. When using email, it can be difficult to infer subtle cues as would occur in an in-person meeting. In general, when it comes to business email, you’ll want to avoid humor, snarky jokes or memes.
Keep to the subject at hand, be clear and concise, and keep in mind your recipient is just as busy as you are! It’s all about building trust and making it easy for them to reply, and become a valued customer.

Formatting

To avoid being flagged as spam, stick to your message content and language over formatting. Bold face, unnecessary inserted images, crazy fonts and different colors will tend to annoy the recipient if they do happen to open your message at all. Keep it simple and clear, and your chance of getting a response will be much higher.

To, Cc & Bcc

Who on your mailing list needs to read this email? If you’re sending responses to a group, or keeping an interested party in the loop of the conversation, make sure you’re following the correct etiquette. If a recipient is not directly involved in the matter at hand, it might be a good idea to remove them.

Privacy

Confidential information should be carefully considered when responding to a request. In most cases, you will only respond directly to the recipient.

Reply All?

Double-check before hitting ‘Reply All’ in an email response. Always ask yourself if everyone on the email chain needs to read your response. If the message is confidential, make sure your response is only to the recipient that needs to read it.


Extra tips

Proofread every email before you hit send

Maintaining good email habits start with proofreading before sending. Are all the intended recipients on the list or are there unintended people included? Beyond checking spelling and grammar, To, Cc and Bcc are a consideration for every message and will be appreciated on the other end.

Timing your response

Keeping in touch in a timely manner is a great way to build a good client base and show off your proper email etiquette. Set aside time during your work-day to answer emails; for example, an hour or two in the morning as you start your daily tasks. Unless it is an emergency, try to respond within 24 hours during the business week, during business hours of 9am - 5pm, and you’ll be on the path to a fruitful professional relationship.

Emojis?

Along the lines of jokes, cynical memes and other humor, stay away from emojis in the professional realm. The potential for misinterpretation is huge, not to mention the lack of formality.

Using emojis and other silly forms of humor will make you seem incompetent at best, illiterate at worst. Avoid undercutting your professional image by staying away from them altogether. The key is to know your audience. A single smiley emoticon from a colleague is not the end of the world, but outside the workplace with unfamiliar business relationships its best to stick to the written word.

Down-Edit Replies & Referencing Previous Email

In some instances, you’ll want to show your contacts and customers you’re email savvy by responding to the topic at hand. Keep the response friendly, light on content if at all possible, and edit out the previous content that no longer applies. This includes simply cutting out the unnecessary trail of email responses from the previous thread. Select the text to be cut and simply hit ‘Delete’. This leaves your customer with less clutter to contend with and a much easier way for them to read your reply and choose their response in kind.

When to down-edit

Removing e-mail headers, signature files, and disclaimers that are repeated at the bottom of messages gets rid of most of the junk of a lengthy reply. Top-posting – the act of hitting reply and send on a long email thread – can annoy your recipients. If there is little need to reiterate every single message, then down-editing shows savvy email etiquette to all included on the message.

When not to down-edit

If the communication is of a legal matter, a lengthy record of all correspondence is a good method to cover oneself if the messages will be used in any sort of dispute or contract.

Still have questions about how to avoid being flagged by the dreaded spam filter? When in doubt, refer to the CAN-SPAM Act set by the American Federal Trade Commission. There you’ll find a wealth of information about formatting and methods to avoid and ones to employ.

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