Email etiquette: the art of communicating effectively for work

Emails: we send hundreds of them every month and hope that they reach their intended target, conveying the messaging we plan. However, a poorly constructed email might mean that what you are trying to say gets lost, or not read at all. There is an art to writing and composing a professional email. Here are some tips to get you started. 

1. Keep emails short

An email should be as short as possible while still conveying its intended message. For a guide, three sentences are generally the maximum amount that a casual reader will process without needing to refer back to the email. 

Take your time to read and re-read your email to make sure you have nailed your point. Check for any spelling and grammatical errors before sending. Concentrate on conveying a single message per email when possible. 

2. Don’t use too many colors, fonts, and embedded graphics

Many people use programs for emails that may not recognize certain fonts, different colors or text sizes. Keep these things as consistent as possible. This is particularly true if the colors and fonts are embedded within the email. 

The same thing goes for photos and images embedded within email text. Even things like company logos can become altered or simply not show up within certain programs, making your email look unprofessional. There are many other ways to draw attention to points you want to emphasize. 

3. Do use bold, bullet points and italics

Make use of numbered lists and bullet points. These help your email recipient to find important parts of the email quickly. Another way to separate information is to emphasize words using bold or italics. This also helps to draw the attention of your reader’s eye.

However, too much bold or overuse of italics can also be jarring and can ‘throw’ the reader’s eye off. Try bolding just three or four words – they should be the most important words in the email, such as a request for an interview, please find my resume attached. 

4. Never use all CAPS, or all lower-case

Most of us have heard this one before and yet people still continue to make this mistake. Even using all caps for ONE single word in a sentence can be jarring and can make your reader feel like you are ANGRY or upset about something. 

Using all lower case can look just as bad as this can make your writing style seem sloppy and lazy. Use a capital letter at the beginnings of sentences, for people’s names and for proper nouns. Use correct punctuation and avoid excessive exclamation marks!

5. Email is company property

Remember that unless you are sending your email from your personal computer, it is company property. Never email anything that you would not want the CEO of your company to see. 

Many companies have serious email communication policies. This usually means that emails can be retrieved, examined, and used in court if needed to prove a point. If you want to make emails more secure, you can use encryption devices. A good list of these products can be found at this Wikipedia page called ‘encryption devices’.

6. Make use of good, clear subject fields

There is almost nothing worse than getting a million emails with no clear subject. “From Laura” or “hi” are titles that force the receiver to open your email. In today’s busy age we need to make communication easy, this means giving effective, short, and too-the-point headings such as “one quick question about today’s invoice, not urgent”.

Change the subject heading as you forward the email on. “Got the invoice code, need Client X’s phone number” could be your next heading. 

7. Remember the value of face-to-face

Email is a great tool for communicating but it is not everything. Never underestimate the value of a phone call or personal visit. 

So much of business is about fostering effective working relationships. This is difficult to harbor and grow via a purely digital format. 

If the person you are emailing is in your office, go and talk to them if you can. If you have a big problem to solve, a phone call can often be the most efficient way to check off a series of questions without having to reply to multiple emails. 

Yvette McKenzie is a writer for Secta Security. She works for a leading online educator and has a background in broadcast media, with a passion for digital marketing, SEO, promotions, journalism, and content strategy.