Email Etiquette

Last week I emailed someone I had not emailed before.  I pressed “reply to all” in an email from a third party in which they were included.  Surprisingly I received an automated email back from the new person asking me to register for their “approved senders” list to allow the email through.

It’s not the first time I have seen this.  I get it with an overseas company I deal with.  But the nature of the exchange got me thinking about how email etiquette has evolved over the years.

Emails used to be used less often.  They now take the place of letters.  However, they now have a much more “conversational” approach.  Have you noticed that you answer a question one email only to be immediately asked a supplementary question in the next email.  Ten emails later…

I seem to spend a lot of time on emails.  We probably all suffer from their volume!  I thought I’d make a list of 20 email etiquette rules I try to apply, that you may find useful too.

  1. Emails in place of a quick phone call – obviously this is appropriate when you could not get hold of the person on the phone, but too often emails are unnecessary and take longer to answer, especially if they turn into a typed conversation.
  2. Emails with too many recipients – I work collaboratively in many ways with different people, my rules for sanity are:
    • If I’d like you to reply I will put you in the “To:” box.
    • If I don’t need a reply I’ll put you in the “CC:” box.
    • Do the same to me and I’ll know if I’m core to that communication.
    • Consider if a “Reply all” is necessary in giving the feedback requested by the sender.
    • If I need to be clear I’ll actually ask one of the recipients in the email to reply, making it clear.
  3. Emails at all times of the day – I use a quiet setting on my phone out of hours.  I might or might not see the email, but would only reply if it looks urgent.
  4. Part 2 of emails at all times of the day – if I can I will use a delayed send to deliver the email the following morning rather than at 10pm, thus not pressurising the receipient.
  5. I try to write in whole sentences, even when typing an email on my phone.  It makes more sense to the recipient.
  6. Email in haste and repent at leisure.  Particularly when cross or under pressure!
  7. Prune that automatic email address prompt list to avoid using old addresses or emailing the wrong person (I often email a client when it’s aimed at my son, sorry Jamie, you know who you are!).
  8. Spell check!  Or even print before you send and proof read on paper!
  9. We naturally email as we would speak.  Often, without inflection or body language to add to the context, this can seem rude and discourteous.  Treat emails more like letters to remove this risk.
  10. Say “Please” and “Thank you”.
  11. TAKE OFF THE CAPS LOCK – I don’t need you to shout!
  12. Get a decent Spam filter and a virus checker.  Don’t sink under that strain.
  13. Don’t open emails and attachments if you were not expecting them – that’s a virus there waiting for you.
  14. Check the subject field remains accurate, it’s difficult enough to manage dozens of emails when the same title is on many different emails.
  15. Check the size of attachments before sending, if they are too large they could be rejected.  Experience is that the sender’s email system rejects it, yet they blame the recipient’s system.  Ask as there will be other ways to transfer large data files more securely.
  16. Don’t ask for a Read Receipt.  It is quite intrusive.
  17. Check your Junk Mail or Clutter folder regularly!
  18. Use an email footer with your phone number, then the email “ping pong” can be swiftly resolved with a phone call.
  19. Don’t assume emails are encrypted or confidential.  They almost never are.
  20. Ask the recipient if their email can be viewed by anyone else at their work before you send private data to it.

And I could go on…

I hope this gives food for thought and happy emailing to all.

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