The Email Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know

Woman on laptop in cafe coffee shopOmar Havana/Getty ImagesThink twice before hitting ‘reply all.’

Research has found that the average U.S. employee spends about a quarter of their time at work combing through the hundreds of emails they send and receive each day.

And yet, according to career coach Barbara Pachter, plenty of professionals still don’t know how to use email appropriately.

Because people send and receive so many messages a day, many end up making embarrassing mistakes that could be detrimental in a professional interaction.

For example, you can easily miss a spelling error while typing out an email on your smartphone, or you may come off as too casual or unprofessional in tone or content.

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.

3. Think twice before hitting 'reply all.'

No one wants to read emails from 20 people when it has nothing to do with them. They could just ignore the emails, but many people get 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, says Pachter.

4. Use professional salutations.

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.'

6. Be cautious with humour.

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.'

8. Reply to your emails -- even if the email wasn't intended for you.

It's difficult to reply to every email message ever sent to you, but you should try to, says Pachter. 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.'

10. Add the email address last.

'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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