Let’s be honest, emails can be stressful. And with mobile devices making it even easier to have 24/7 access, replying to a full inbox can be a job in itself.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like my inbox metaphorically resembles my house: Clean, tidy, and attended to, means I am able to get clear and focused throughout the day, but messy, and scattered is enough to send me into overdrive. But as busy as your job is, email isn’t going anywhere, and not maintaining a certain level of email etiquette—we’ve all had those emails before—could instantly fracture important relationships.
So, to get the official word on email etiquette, and the basic lessons in making sure you’re owning your own inbox, we asked Who What Wear, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and POPSUGAR Australia group publisher, Alison Rice, INF / Network member and director of KMC, Kelly Muller, and Toni & Guy / Enjo Ambassador and publicist, Roxy Jackenco for their top email tips.
How to manage a busy inbox
“I use the two-sentence preview in Outlook so I can quickly scan the context of the email. I don’t click on it unless I am going to respond straight away, which means my unread emails are super clear. I also answer most of my emails on my phone when I’m moving—literally—on the way to the kitchen and meetings, walking to get a cab, getting in cabs… I try to clear my inbox once a week.” – Alison Rice
“Because I don’t work your standard 9-5, I am a bit of an email freak. I have to be to stay on top of them. First thing every morning, I go through my inbox. I delete anything that doesn’t need a response (newsletters and the like), respond to anything urgent, and mark the most important so I have a starting point when I sit down to start my work day.” – Kelly Muller
“I do them as they come in—I don’t leave them to mount up. With smart phones it’s easy to do them on the go and stay on top of things. If you let them get out of control and you will be forever chasing your tail trying to catch up.” – Roxy Jacenko
How to foster email relationships
“I respond to every email that is addressed directly to me, and I am consistent with saying hello, please, and thank you. I take the view that everyone is just trying to do a job, so I am always trying to put myself in the sender’s shoes and understand what it is they need from me in order to get on with their job. None of this ‘too important’ business! If someone takes the time to email me, I take the time to reply. Not for everyone of course, but important to me. These days emailing sometimes is the relationship, so it’s about doing the best I can to cultivate great relationships using the medium. I’m not superwoman though, so sometimes I’m a little shorter than I’d like to be but that’s just about brutal prioritisation. I respond to the people I work closely with first—my direct team.”– Alison Rice
“It’s not something I actively think about to be honest, but my approach to emails is much the same as my approach to communication in person—I am polite, helpful, and keep to the point. We’re all so busy, so I make sure I’m not taking up too much of anyone’s time. If I’m contacting someone for the first time, I do my research—I don’t ever copy and paste, and always add in something that relates to them personally.” – Kelly Muller
How to avoid sounding passive-agressive
“TLDR (too long, didn’t read)! Actually, that isn’t that passive aggressive, is it? I really like it though. Long emails are a drag and if it is longer than a few sentences it is often worth an in-person chat or a call. Someone important sent TLDR to me once and I tightened up my email style on the spot. But as it relates to passive aggressive emails, anytime someone I have a rapport with uses “Dear Alison” or “Kind Regards” when they usually don’t, I see that as a bit passive aggressive and also quite eye roll! But as a rule of thumb, I like to assume everyone has the best intentions and if an email is short or seems blunt, often people are just busy. It’s just email and we all have a lot them to get through so remembering not to take ourselves too seriously is so important. Spending time stewing over a word, someone’s use of full stops or the like is a waste of time. I think we’d all be more effective if we operated in an email world where we just got to the point and got on with it.” – Alison Rice
“I’m probably guilty of it more than I receive it (oops!), but ‘per my last email’ is one that springs to mind. I try to include all information in the one email to save long email chains going back and forth but still find that this phrase is often relevant.” – Kelly Muller
“Statements like: With all due respect, Many Thanks, Noted with Thanks, Noted, Regards in place of Kind Regards, can come across as passive aggressive.” – Roxy Jacenko.
How to respond sincerely
“I am more interested in keeping it business related—copy that is to the point and asks the question straight up. I’m a huge fan of bcc for thoughtfulness though. A lot of people think it is for blind copying your manager to get someone in trouble (oh dear) but it is actually very useful for removing people that have introduced you to someone, handed a project over, or don’t need to be on the discussion chain. Add them back in when you get to an outcome as an FYI. Thoughtfulness in 2017 is sparing someone’s inbox another email!” – Alison Rice
“Personally, I don’t think you should overthink an email. Being sincere should be second nature and honesty and politeness are things every email should contain.” – Kelly Muller
“I like to make it personal. I often ask how the person’s day is, how they are, and have an interest in them and what is happening in their life.” – Roxy Jacenko
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