December 13, 2010

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Top 10 Tips for Email Etiquette

Email is a part of modern day business communication - there’s no escaping it these days. But rather than see it simply as a means of transferring a message, you should view each email communication to potential customers as an opportunity to shine, stand out from your competitors and sell yourself.

Too many companies/people still don’t realise the importance of email communications; replies are sent late or not at all, and replies are sent that don’t answer the question. It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing short reactive responses when someone makes an enquiry, but this can often lead to bad grammar and spelling and remarks that appear rude or abrasive - none of which make a good impression. At the extreme, bad email responses could create awkward liability issues. Here are’s Top 10 Tips for Email Etiquette.

1. Answer the question - and pre-empt other questions. Make sure you answer everything in the original email. Leaving anything unanswered will generate more emails and cause frustration. It’s also great to offer more relevant information to your customer. For example, if they ask about the size of the bedrooms, you might like to send more photos of the rooms and the inspection times.

2. Grammar, punctuation, spelling. This is SO important to get right. Typing a response, rather than writing one, does not allow you to be sloppy with your words. It’s very easy to confuse the message if full stops and commas aren’t used correctly, and bad spelling and use of language leave a bad impression of your business.

3. Answer promptly. People send emails because they want quick responses - otherwise they’d write a letter or send a fax. Make sure you answer all emails within 24 hours at a minimum - preferably same business day. If you don’t know the answer or need more time to prepare, send an acknowledgement email with a timeframe for full response - this will put the sender’s mind at ease.

4. Do not write in CAPITALS. Writing your entire response in capitals is both difficult to read and can be misconstrued as shouting. You don’t want to enrage your receiver unneccessarily.

5. Add a disclaimer to your email. Issues such as viruses being passed on, defamatory comments, misleading information are all things that can be covered off in a disclaimer at the bottom of your company emails. Whilst it may not prevent the issue occuring, it can help protect you and your company from liability and will be a help in court if a customer wished to sue. Your company should have an email policy that includes all such information (legal consultation may be necessary to ensure you are covered legally).

6. Abbreviations and slang. Be mindful of using abbreviations and industry slang in your emails. Not everyone knows what they mean and your message may get lost.

7. Confidential information. Don’t use email to discuss confidential matters. Email is like a postcard - anyone can read them and you would hate to expose either yourself or your client.

8. Active vs passive voice. Try to use the active form of a verb rather than the passive. Example: ‘We will pass your offer on to the client today’, rather than ‘Your offer will be passed on to the client today’. The first is more personal and proactive - the latter is rather formal.

9. Avoid long sentences. Keep sentences to a minimum of 15-20 words. Email is supposed to be a quick medium and requires a different writing style to long-hand letters.  Also avoid long emails overall - if the receiver gets something that looks like an encyclopedia they may not even attempt to read it.

10. TO:, CC: and BC:. Be mindful of putting everyone’s email address in the To field, even if you are sending a group of people the same response. This shows the recipient that you have also sent the same message to a number of other people and it also publicises people’s email addresses without their permission. Using BCC can avoid this issue, however you run the risk of your email then looking like spam, because the To: field will be left empty. (A mailmerger is a way around this.) Make sure that if you CC: someone on an email that they are aware of why they are being copied. Do not copy people unnecessarily. It is annoying to receive dozens of emails that don’t really concern you and equally annoying to feel like you’re not important enough to be in the To: field when it does concern you!

and finally, one last bonus Tip # 11

11. Read your emails before sending them! It’s imperative you take the extra few seconds out of your day to read your emails before sending them. You will be able to avoid most mistakes in grammar and spelling and by reading it through the eyes of the receiver you should be able to head off any misunderstandings or inappropriate comments.

[image: flickr/Tim Morgan]


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