To improve the impact of your messages and avoid trouble, there are a few unwritten rules, called netiquette (networking etiquette) you should be aware of:
- Clearly summarize your message in the subject line.
- Keep your messages short and focused. Recipients tend to ignore long messages.
- Don't write in all CAPITAL LETTERS. Capital letters are used for emphasis and are considered equivalent to SHOUTING. IT'S ALSO DIFFICULT TO READ.
- Watch your spelling. Almost all e-mail clients let you know if you misspell a word. Take advantage of the help.
- Don't write anything you wouldn't say in public. It's easy for recipients to forward messages to others, which could leave you in an embarrassing position if you divulge personal or confidential information.
- Include your name at the bottom of a message.
- If you are e-mailing photos, don’t send anything you wouldn’t want the entire world to see. Remember, e-mail is not always private.
It’s easy to think of e-mail as a casual method of communication which does not need to adhere to the same rules of etiquette as traditional mail. In some ways, that’s true. It is perfectly fine to send a quick, one-word response to someone else’s message. But it’s important to remember that, regardless of whether it’s handwritten or electronic, every communication is a reflection of you and your business. Sloppy, unprofessional e-mails will reflect poorly on both.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I always have to follow these rules?
Rules are meant to be broken, and if you’re sending a quick e-mail to your buddy, go ahead and break away. But for anything beyond personal correspondences–whether you’re sending an e-mail for work, reaching out to a colleague, or writing to customer service–you should always follow these guidelines.
What are the rules for forwarding messages?
There are no hard and fast rules for forwarding messages, but, in general, it’s best to keep forwards to a minimum. Only forward a message to people who need to receive it, and never forward a message to your entire address book.
Can I use e-mail stationery?
If you decide to use an e-mail stationery (colorful backgrounds which are available with many e-mail clients), choose one that is subtle and light. Stationary that is cluttered with images or glitter can be distracting for your reader, and dark backgrounds may make the text harder to read. In general, particularly in the day of mobile communications, it is best to avoid e-mail stationery, since they make for larger message sizes and may be left out by the recipient’s e-mail client anyway. If you want to customize your e-mail, use an e-mail signature instead.
When should I use the Reply All function?
Reply All sends your response to everyone who received the original e-mail. If you are discussing something with a large group over e-mail, using Reply All ensures no one is left out of parts of the conversation. However, if you only need to respond to the sender, use the Reply button instead. Whenever you respond to a message that has multiple recipients, be very careful; accidentally hitting the Reply All can get you into trouble.