And yet, according to career coach Barbara Pachter, plenty of professionals still don’t know how to use email appropriately.
Pachter outlines modern email etiquette rules in her book “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette.” We pulled out the most important ones you need to know.
Vivian Giang contributed to an earlier version of this article.
No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting 'reply all' unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email, Pachter says.
Don't use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, 'Hey you guys,' 'Yo,' or 'Hi folks.'
'The relaxed nature of our writings should not affect the salutation in an email,' she says. 'Hey is a very informal salutation and generally it should not be used in the workplace. And Yo is not ok either. Use Hi or Hello instead.'
She also advises against shortening anyone's name. Say 'Hi Michael,' unless you're certain he prefers to be called 'Mike.'
Humour can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions. In a professional exchange, it's better to leave humour out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Also, something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else.
Pachter says: 'Something perceived as funny when spoken may come across very differently when written. When in doubt, leave it out.'
It's difficult to reply to every email message ever sent to you, but you should try to, Pachter says. This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. A reply isn't necessary but serves as good email etiquette, especially if this person works in the same company or industry as you.
Here's an example reply: 'I know you're very busy, but I don't think you meant to send this email to me. And I wanted to let you know so you can send it to the correct person.'
With all the options available on computers, it can be tempting to get carried away using very small or large fonts, bolding, italics, and different colours. 'Don't,' says Pachter. It's distracting and may be perceived the wrong way.
'You don't want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message,' Pachter says. 'Even when you are replying to a message, it's a good precaution to delete the recipient's address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.'
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