Business Email Etiquette: Essential Rules
Sending emails in the business world is still a vital form of communication. Ensuring that you follow the proper business email etiquette means that you can form better relationships with your associates and increase the chances of success in your career.
Have you ever hit “send” on an email and had instant regret?
Writing a good email is essential in the modern business world. We’ve graduated from writing letters, and although there are some incredible communication technologies out there, email remains a staple for business communication. Since the quality of your emails can help you win or lose business, it’s worth learning how to write a great email.
The number of emails sent per day is 347.3 billion in 2023, and is only increasing as time goes on. You need to learn how to stand out from the crowd and overcome the noise.
Bad emails are at best, confusing, and at worst, offensive. We’ve going to cover some of the mistakes to avoid when writing business emails and explore the proper email etiquette you can follow.
Good email business etiquette is not taught in schools but it’s vital for effective communication. You want to portray yourself in the best possible light and ensure your message gets across.
Professionals who are skilled at business email will experience more success in work and life than those who neglect this important skill.
What is business email etiquette?
Business email etiquette is the art of expressing yourself professionally with colleagues, clients, partners and customers, and is part of business communications. It is quite simply a code of conduct that most professionals will follow when constructing emails to recipients, ensuring the message is properly received and creating the right impression.
Business email etiquette refers to the words and phrases you choose, the structure of the email and other important elements of sending email. Etiquette might include how you sign off your emails, what time of day you send the email, and use of controversial elements such as emojis when constructing your email.
It is markedly different from sending personal emails to your friends and family, which can naturally be much more informal and playful. Business email etiquette concerns particular structures and conventions we use when communicating with our business associates.
Business email etiquette is essential to learn if you want your career to flourish and people to take you seriously.
Why is business email etiquette important?
If you can’t communicate effectively, you’ve lost your chance of building those all-important business relationships. Business contacts may not respect you and you risk alienating the very people you want to impress.
You show respect for the recipient
Using the proper etiquette means you respect the recipient. Greeting the recipient appropriately, such as using “Dear [NAME]”, is a good way of opening your email and showing them that you have an important message. Openers are particularly important in customer service emails, where you want to show respect for the recipient and their time.
Good spelling, punctuation and grammar are all signs of respect for the recipient since you have bothered to proofread your email.
Your emails are easier to read
Business email etiquette results in emails that are easier to read because you use the proper sentence structure, plain language and break your information up into paragraphs and bullet points. Use of off-putting elements such as ALL CAPITALS make your emails much harder to read and are also not advised in business communication in general.
Emails that are easier to read are more pleasant for the recipient who has to use less effort to understand your message.
You increase the chances of a reply
When you follow the rules of the game as you write your emails, you increase the chances of a reply because recipients know exactly what you want. When you are competing against those billions of emails sent per day, you want to reduce the likelihood of your email being instantly deleted, or worse, marked as spam.
Emails that don’t follow the proper rules of etiquette are likely to get ignored, which is a waste of everyone’s time.
When would you use business email etiquette?
There are a number of scenarios in which an individual might choose to follow business email etiquette.
- When emailing a colleague – even internal emails need to follow certain standards of practice to avoid ending up in the junk folder.
- When connecting with a business associate – networking with other business professionals requires a degree of professionalism.
- When reaching out to a client – clients are important parties to your business and must be treated with respect.
- When targeting prospects – salespeople connecting with prospects need to come across as professional and respectful.
- When communicating with customers – customers are frequently interacting with your customer service team and they expect professionalism.
- When applying for a job – you want to provide the best impression possible and show you are skilled at communication.
- When dealing with vendors or freelancers – even individuals who are doing a job for your company must be dealt with professionally.
If you find yourself in any one of these scenarios, it’s worth learning professional business email etiquette to help streamline your communications.
What are the 5 rules of email etiquette?
We’ve come up with the five golden rules of email etiquette that you should follow when constructing your emails, which apply to all business emails.
1. Structure your email properly
When you send an email, you’ll want to think about how it is structured. This includes the greeting, introductory paragraph, body of the email and sign-off. If any of these elements are missing then your email is likely to seem incomplete. If you don’t take the time to structure your email properly, then perhaps your recipients won’t make time to read it.
Unlike personal emails, professional emails must follow a structure and give recipients what they expect.
2. Use plain language
Sometimes it’s tempting to try to sound smart, using long and complex words to convey your point. This is a mistake! Use the plainest language possible to articulate your meaning with the simplest and shortest words you can think of. When you take the time to break your message down in this way, recipients are more likely to understand your meaning and retain what you have said.
Using a tool like Hemingway can be a great way to lower the reading age of your business emails.
3. Be clear and concise
It’s very common for people to waffle on when writing their emails, and over-explain topics that could be best expressed in a few words. Being clear in your choice of language and concise in your expression is the ideal way to write your business emails. Making a commitment to being specific and direct is the best route to ensure that recipients understand your emails and take action.
Your recipients will thank you for your clarity, which is harder to achieve than you might think!
4. Proofread the email
It sounds obvious but proofreading your email is vital for individuals who want to strike a professional tone. Emails that are littered with typos and grammatical errors are unlikely to be taken seriously as it looks like you haven’t bothered to take the time to check your email. If the email is particularly important, consider asking a third party to take a look before you send it.
Your email software such as Gmail usually comes with a built-in spellchecker, so make sure to use it.
5. Get straight to the point
It should be clear what you want from the other person in the first few lines of the email. It may be polite to make a certain amount of small talk but quickly get to the point if you don’t want your recipients to lose interest. Don’t save up the true purpose of your email to the end, or your readers will get frustrated and scroll through without reading properly.
It’s a fine line between being abrupt and rude, and getting quickly to the point so you don’t waste your recipient’s time.
Read More: How to Write a Proper Email
What is the etiquette for professional emails?
Etiquette for professional emails is somewhat subjective and definitely varies across cultures. For example, the decision over whether to introduce yourself in the first line or wait until later in the body is different, as well as the title which you use to address your recipient.
The best practice for email etiquette is observe what others in your culture do and follow their conventions. Ultimately, recipients may be aware when you are from a different culture and forgive any violations of their own practices.
In any culture, etiquette generally means respecting your recipient’s time and being clear about what you want. Communication usually happens between professionals when you want to make connections, move a project forwards, or get a task done. Focusing on the job at hand is critical for proper business email etiquette.
Ultimately, time is money so the less time recipients have to spend decoding your email, the better.
How do you show professionalism in an email?
Showing professionalism in an email means demonstrating that you are someone who knows how to play the game, willing to respect the needs and wishes of others. Being able to follow the code of conduct is crucial to building those business relationships that may help to advance you in your career.
Showing respect, valuing time, and evidencing empathy are all key components of professionalism in emails. Having access to someone via their email address is a privilege that should not be abused, even if they are someone who works within your organization.
Email professionalism is just as important in your communications with customers, who are expecting your business to provide a certain standard of service. It doesn’t mean being perfect when writing your emails, but simply attempting to adhere to certain standards of practice.
Showing professionalism in an email means being sensitive to the context and environment in which you send it.
What makes a strong professional email?
A strong professional email is one that is sent from one business associate to another. It is distinguishable from a message from a personal email address because it lacks informal elements. A professional email is one that is distinguishable as being sent in a workplace setting rather than between two friends, for example.
When sending this type of email, you make it clear who it’s from and also the purpose of the email. Probably the biggest difference between a professional and personal email is its structure, and the fact that it comes from a business email address with a signature.
If you are communicating in the workplace, a strong professional email is one that clearly conveys a point in the politest way possible. If your emails can be actionable as well as agreeable, then you have achieved good email etiquette.
Constructing your email in the way that recipients expect is key to a strong professional email.
What are 10 do’s and don’ts for using email?
1. Do introduce yourself
If you’re sending an email to someone you don’t know, then it’s customary to introduce yourself in the beginning of the email. Especially if you’re a salesperson reaching out to potential prospects, recipients will want to know who you are and what you stand for. Cold emails that are unsolicited are especially likely to end up in the junk folder.
Make sure recipients know who you are when sending business email.
2. Do be sensible with “Reply all”
If everyone in the email chain doesn’t need to know the answer to something, consider leaving them out of your response. Be respectful of the inboxes of others when replying to group emails in a business context. Only include others in the email chain if they need to remain aware of what has been said.
Only send the minimum number of emails that are necessary to keep people informed.
3. Do respond within 24 hours if possible
It’s common politeness to reply to emails you receive within 24 hours, unless of course you are on vacation or another form of leave. If there are delays in your replying, consider an informative out-of-office responder that informs contacts about your absence, letting them know when you will be back and who to contact in the meantime.
Prompt responses are an important part of business email etiquette, no matter how busy your inbox is.
4. Do spend time on the subject line
Motivating people to open your email is an important part of effective business communication. A subject line that’s not too long and clearly articulates the content and purpose of your email significantly impacts open rates. Letting people know what to expect shows respect for their time and acknowledges that they have many priorities.
Craft your subject lines carefully to ensure that more people open your emails.
5. Do fine-tune your email signature
Including an email signature with your name, company website, and contact details such as company email address is vital if you want to look professional. Many organizations even require their employees to adhere to certain standards when it comes to their email signature, so they can more effectively represent the company. Name, email address, phone number and website are usually essential elements of the signature.
Email clients usually enable you to set an automatic signature for your email address so you don’t have to type it in every time.
6. Don’t use vulgar language
You may swear a bit when talking to your friends but this is highly unprofessional in a business setting and certainly has no place in your emails. Vulgar language may come across as very rude and offensive towards your business associates. Keeping your emails clean and polite is good business email etiquette.
Remember, emails are a record of your communications so you want to look back on them proudly.
7. Don’t use all caps
Over-emphasizing what you want to say with CAPS is a big no-no in email etiquette. It’s the email equivalent of shouting, which you’d be unlikely to do face-to-face and therefore should stay away from when writing emails. Use the power of language and formatting (bullet points and bold emphasis) to call attention to certain points of your email.
Trust that your own writing skills will enable you to highlight important parts of your emails.
8. Don’t get creative with fonts and colors
You may have an artistic side but recipients won’t appreciate it when you get creative with fonts of colors. Keeping your emails plain and easy to read by using the standard black or dark gray, and common fonts such as Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman. Hopefully, what you have to say will be interesting enough for your contacts.
Sending business emails is not really a time to be creative – keep it plain and simple.
9. Don’t hammer the exclamation points
Equally, using lots of exclamation points will be off-putting for your recipients. If you want to show enthusiasm, a single exclamation point will do and anymore than that will end up looking unprofessional. It’s okay to be excited but make sure you don’t go overboard.
Use your words to express excitement over something without resorting to excessive exclamation points.
10. Don’t send before proofreading
There’s nothing worse than an email that is littered with mistakes and typos because the sender couldn’t be bothered to proofread it. Most email clients should come with a spellchecker so at the very least pay attention to what it tells you about your emails. Don’t be in such a rush to send your emails that you fail to proofread them.
Consider your audience when writing your emails and only send messages that you would like to receive.
When sending emails at work what are some rules you should follow?
Here are some common-sense rules you should follow when sending email at work.
- Assume that anyone can read your email
- Avoid breaking the law
- Consider the workplace environment
- Follow data privacy regulations for private or sensitive information
- Only send emails that are necessary
- Write as you would like to be written to
If you follow these rules, you should run into fewer problems in sending workplace emails.
Sending emails in the business world is still a vital form of communication. Ensuring that you follow the proper business email etiquette means that you can form better relationships with your associates and increase the chances of success in your career. You don’t have to become Shakespeare in order to write great business emails.
When you consider the sheer volume of email sent and received, you’ll want to perfect your writing skills to maximize the likelihood of an open and a response. You’re likely to be sending email for a reason so you need to make sure you hit your target.
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins
Business email etiquette provides a shared standard that we can use to communicate more effectively, demonstrating that we have thought about the experience of the reader.
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