The Perfect Email Etiquette

The following is a guest post.

As a general rule, e-mails do make working life easier. After all, without them we’d all have to return to the days of missing out on business just because we weren’t in the office when a potential customer called! However, it’s amazing how many people still don’t know how to use e-mail in a way that’s professional and pleasant. Here, then, is a little guide on using e-mails in such a way that doesn’t drive your colleagues and your friends completely insane, written in association with the great guys at

Use a Relevant Subject Line

Everyone has endured the absolute torture that comes from trying to find one particular e-mail from a person that you communicate with ten times a day. (The e-mail in question is usually at least a week old, and will have no credentials that will help you separate it from the hundreds of other identikit e-mails from that person). To help combat this dire situation, it’s important to ensure that the subject line is changed when the conversation moves on. You shouldn’t still be replying with ‘Re: Budgeting’ if you stopped talking about the budget five hours ago!

Using Text Speak

No, no, and for a third time no. Whilst most people know that text speak shouldn’t be used in communication with clients/potential clients (any self respecting business man will see this as a sign to run in the other direction), it should also be avoided in communicating with people that you know. It’s not uncommon to need to refer back to certain e-mails, and it’s vital to ensure that the meaning in each e-mail is clear in the event of a dispute. Needless to say, using text speak makes anyone look like an idiot.

Using the Urgent Button when It’s Not Urgent

Most e-mail browsers (especially ones that are used in combination with a large company’s intranet) will provide the option to mark an e-mail as ‘URGENT’. Cue a great deal of people who mark almost every e-mail as ‘URGENT’ due to their own increased level of self-image. ‘If you don’t call this customer within five minutes, we’re going to lose £50,000’s worth of business’ is urgent. ‘Dave, can you fill up the printer because we’re low on ink’ is not. Here’s a clue for those button clickers: if something is worth pressing the urgent button for, it’s worth picking up the phone for.

E-Mails when a Phone Call Would Clearly Be More Useful

Yes, e-mails are incredibly useful and yes, they offer the potential for communication when the phone isn’t an option. However, they shouldn’t be used instead of good, old-fashioned conversation. Everyone has met that employee that simply doesn’t like talking on the phone. Annoying, isn’t it? If you’ve been having an ongoing e-mail conversation with questions pinging back and forth for an hour, then pick the phone up: not only will you save yourself time typing out all those replies, you’ll also have the pleasure of talking to another human being, which is a good thing. Well, most of the time anyway.

Forgetting About Attachments

This fatal error usually occurs when a big file (such as a video or a batch of photos) is sent through in an initial e-mail, followed by a back-and-forth conversation, with each e-mail being added to the base of the reply. Before you know it, this chain is taking up half of your hard drive and your computer’s suffering a mild asthma attack. If you’ve sent a large file in those initial few e-mails, then start a new e-mail chain the next time you need to reply.

Photo by mtkang/ShutterStock.

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