There are a few simple business email etiquette rules that you can follow to make your life a whole lot easier and save yourself from being an email ignoramus.
Sure, business email is a necessity, but I think we can all agree that email is a colossal pain in the a$$. A lot of that pain is caused by ignoramus’ rampant misuse of email.
Sure we might not be able to save the whales, the rain forests, the ozone layer (wait, we’ve done that haven’t we?) or elect a functional human being as president – but, if everyone could just follow these five simple rules for business email, the world would be a much better place…
Business Email Rule #1
Email should only ever be sent to ONE person.
The specific person an email is sent “To” is the person responsible for responding to and acting on that email.
When multiple people are involved, choose the most relevant person or project leader as the “To” contact and “Cc” the rest. People who are copied on an email are expected to read the email for their information (if they choose to give a crap), but are not responsible to respond or act on the email.
Similarly, the “To” contact is responsible for filing the email and saving any attachements while “Cc” contacts are free to delete or file the email as they see fit.
And never, ever, under any circumstances blindly Reply All. Reply All is the exponential bunny rabbit multiplier of email clutter. Email should only be sent to people to whom it is relevant – so if it is actually relevant to everyone, Reply All. If not, only reply to those who are relevant.
Business Email Rule #2
Specify the subject for each email and never send a single email that has multiple subjects.
The subject line for every email should always reference at least two things: the job or project that the email is relevant to and the specific subject the email is regarding.
If you don’t follow this rule you will never be able to effectively find old emails for reference.
Also, each individual email should only be relevant to one single subject. This makes responding to emails a much easier and streamlined task, and it makes tracking responses so much easier than trying to figure out what part of a multi-subject email still requires action.
Business Email Rule #3
Do not use email for a two way conversation.
Email is not and was never meant to be a two way conversation. Email should be reserved for sending a specific packet of information or a request for an action, and a reply – there is no reason for an email chain to exceed one or two back and forth iterations.
If you want to have a two way chat or an ongoing conversation – use Slack or text or some other less formal communication.
Business Email Rule #4
Keep business email formal (or at least semi-formal).
Speaking of formal communication, all business email should follow a standard letter format – beginning with a greeting (Good Morning, Hello, Hi), followed by the body of what you want to say (with proper grammar, spelling and you know…punctuation and capital letters…it doesn’t have to be perfect, but at least try a little), and ending with a closing (sincerely, regards, thank you).
Business Email Rule #5
Do not send large attachments via email.
Email is for text and small attachments needed to illustrate a point – not for transferring large files.
If you have to send a few photos, have the courtesy to reduce the size to something in the order of 1200px on the long edge – max. The same goes for reports. Sending a full report in PDF format is acceptable up to a few megabytes, but if its any larger or if there are multiple files that add up to a large amount of data just share a Dropbox folder or use a file transfer service like WeTransfer instead.
What Email Rules Do You Think Are Important?
Do you follow any or all of these rules?
If not, why not?
What behavior qualifies as an email ignoramus?
What do you think is the best way to manage business email?