21 tips for essential email etiquette for professionals
Using email might seem like the most straightforward of communications, however, the pitfalls are many.
ICAS lecturers offer their advice and experience to help trainee chartered accountants to be impressive on email.
- Be professional. The recipient of your email is much more likely to respond to a professional email. Be professional in all communications with clients. A bit of informal conversation is fine at times, but it’s unlikely that they are interested in your life plans or everything you got up to on holiday.
- Make it clear whether you are expecting a reply or not.
- Don’t expect emails to be answered instantly. People lead busy lives and may have other things going on. If the matter is really urgent, use the phone instead.
- If you don’t get an answer immediately, don’t send emails to other people in the same organisation. They will find out.
Here’s a tip - don’t put the recipient’s email address in the ‘To’ box until you’ve finished the email. That way you won’t send it accidentally before it’s finished.
- Avoid sending the same email to several people in the same organisation. You may waste all of their time responding individually. If you need to send to several people, allow them to see this in the To/cc boxes.
- Don’t put the recipient’s email address in the ‘To’ box until you’ve finished the email. That way you won’t send it accidentally before it’s finished.
- Be brief, and don’t ramble. Think about what you want to say and say it. Lead with your main point. If you’re looking for a specific piece of information ask them, don’t waffle.
- Use the ‘Subject’ box well. This should summarise the content of the email. If it’s worded well it can encourage people to open your email.
- Make your subject heading useful so that the topic can be found later when the email has been filed.
Make sure you send the email to the right person, with auto-suggest in email programs it’s very easy to send an email to the wrong person.
- Don’t copy everyone in your office in on emails. Think about who needs to see it and send it to them. And don’t reply to everyone unless it’s necessary. The sender is the person you need to reply to.
- Make sure you send the email to the right person, with auto-suggest in email programs it’s very easy to send an email to the wrong person.
- Unless you know the person very well, be formal with your communication – don’t use “hey”, “cheers”, “lol” etc. And never sign off with kisses.
- Don’t constantly email the same request, it can be very annoying to a busy person. If you have a timescale, politely put that in the email.
- Read the email before you send it. Things can come across differently to the way you intended – does it read how you want it to? Also, it doesn’t look good if you send a half written email or have to immediately send corrections.
Know your audience – when discussing matters over email it’s important to consider the technical abilities/knowledge of the person you are emailing
- Know your audience – when discussing matters over email, it’s important to consider the technical abilities and knowledge of the person you are emailing. Try to avoid using complex technical jargon when speaking to clients unless you are happy that they will understand what you are saying and it is actually what they requested.
- When writing to clients or business contacts try to ensure you always address the email to them by name and get their name right and spelled correctly.
- Be careful when using punctuation to highlight words or make jokes. What you are saying may have been meant as a joke or punctuation used to emphasise a point, but reading something does not always come across the same way as saying it out loud.
- Never share confidential information in an email unless you are happy that it is appropriately secure or encrypted.
- Be very careful about bringing a new person into an email conversation – have you checked that all of the previous content they can see is suitable?
- If replying to a long email with lots of points, consider putting your responses in a different colour next to each of the original paragraphs.
- Where it’s an internal email, provide a link, not a document – it avoids clutter and it also means they are viewing the most up to date version
Be very careful before bringing a new person into an email conversation – have you checked that all of the previous content they can see is suitable?