Professionals communicate in a professional manner regardless of the mode of communication. If you are a consummate professional, you know that putting your best foot forward at all times is just what you do.
There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) American Educator
When it comes to your business email communications, you need to make an impression that can lend to the determination that you are a credible professional enterprise. You want to be viewed as a partner who will make communications easy and a pleasure to do business with.
You have only one chance to make that first impression which will be invaluable to building trust and confidence.
The Business Email Etiquette Basics You Need to Know
Here are the key Business Email Etiquette issues that should be applied with every commercial email sent. These are the issues business owners, their employees and Netrepreneurs need to be aware of in their day-to-day online communications to ensure the best possible results.
Professional Behavior on the Job
How you use your email, company email address and employer’s technology is a serious issue. Sending non-business related emails, jokes, forwards or commentary on company time to friends or coworkers reflects a lack of professionalism.
Visiting websites that are not necessary to your job responsibilities reflects you are not to be trusted. While on company time do not assume you have any privacy when using company resources and equipment.
The Subject Field
The Subject field is the window into your email. What you type in this filed can determine if the recipient will open your email. For new contacts based on a request through your site or otherwise, be sure to have a short Subject that clearly indicates that your email is a response to their inquiry.
Typos, all caps or all small case can lend to an unprofessional impression. Or that you may be spammer.
Level of Formality
Avoid the prevailing assumption that email by its very nature allows you to be informal in your business email communications. Only time and relationship building efforts can guide when you offer a more relaxed tone in your business relationships and your email’s tone.
A good rule of thumb is to communicate at all times as if your email is on your company letterhead. This means black text and standard fonts. No acronyms, and typing full words and sentences as well. (For example: u vs. you.)
This is your business’s image you are branding.
Initially address new contacts with the highest level of courtesy: Hello, Mr. Anderson, Dear Ms. Jones, Dr. Osborne, etc. Until your new contact states, “call me Andy” or “you can call me Diane”.
You will also be able pick up clues as to when you can have a more relaxed tone by how contacts approach you as well as how they sign off. Most business people do not mind being called by their first name. However, in a global economy that can be perceived as taking premature liberties in the relationship if used too soon.
To:, From:, BCc, Cc Fields
In the To: field make sure you have your contact’s name formally typed. John B. Doe – not john b doe or JOHN B DOE.
In the From: field make sure you have your full name formally typed. Example: Jane A. Jones. Not: jane a jones or JANE A JONES. The latter two give the perception of lack of education or limited experience with technology.
BCc: use this field when emailing a group of contacts who do not personally know each other. By listing an arms length list of email addresses in the Cc or TO fields of contacts who do not know each other or who have never met is conducive to publishing their email address to strangers.
This is a serious privacy issue. With those you are forging partnerships with, visibly listing their email address in with a group of strangers will make one wonder what other privacy issues you may not respect or understand.
Cc: use this field when there are a handful of associates involved in a discussion that requires all be on the same page. These business people know each other or have been introduced. They will have no problem having their email address exposed to the parties involved. If you are not sure if a business associate would mind their address being made public, ask!
Reply to All
Use this button with discretion. You need to carefully think about whether “all” really need to be aware of your reply to conduct business.
Never use this button to CYA or e-Tattle on a coworker or colleague. Doing so will just make you appear petty while increasing email volume unnecessarily.
Refrain from using any formatting in your day-to-day business email communications. Unless you would type something in bold crimson letters on business letterhead, don’t do it when emailing for commercial gain.
The more formatting or embedded images you pack into your emails that greater the chance that your email could be blocked as spammy.
Even something as simple as using a different font makes your email display contingent upon the recipient having that specific font on their system. Otherwise it defaults to their designated default font.
Keep in mind the recipient may not have their email program configured in such a way as to display your formatting the way it appears on your system – if at all.
How do you think your relationship with a potential new contact is enhanced when you attach that 10M Power Point presentation. A presentation they didn’t request. What if you fill up their inbox causing subsequent business correspondence to bounce as undeliverable.
If they do not have Power Point, they wouldn’t be able open the file anyway. Do not assume your potential customers have the software, or data allowance, that you do to open any file you may arbitrarily send.
When emailing a file (or combination of files) over 500,000 in size, use a zip or compression utility to minimize the size. Offer the courtesy of asking the recipient first before sending large files.
It also helps to confirm they have the same software and version you do. Then, ask what is the best time of day to sent the file(s) to them to ensure they are available to download and keep their email flowing.
Never send large attachments without warning, on weekends or after business hours when the recipient may not be there to keep their inbox clear.
Using Previous Email for New Correspondence
If you want to give the perception of lazy, find a previous email from the party you want to communicate with and hit reply. Then start typing about something completely irrelevant to the old email’s subject.
Always start a new email and add your contacts to your address book so you can add them to a new email with one click. When ongoing conversations change direction, change the Subject field to reflect the new direction.
Down Edit Your Replies
Do not just hit reply and start typing. This is referred to as top posting. Editing is a skill those you communicate with will appreciate as it lends to reflecting a respect for their time and clarity in your communications.
Deleting parts of the previous email that no longer apply to your response (including email headers and signature files) removes the clutter. By making the effort to reply point by point keeps the conversation on track with fewer misunderstandings.
Hello, Hi, Good Day, Thank You, Sincerely, Best Regards. The intros and sign offs that are a staple of professional business communications should also be integrated into your business email communications. Not doing so could have your messages be misinterpreted as demanding or terse.
Always include a salutation and sign off that includes your name with every email. Here again – think business letterhead.
Proper capitalization and punctuation are a must. You are an educated professional and need to communicate as such. All caps or all small case smacks of either lack of education, tech/business savvy — or laziness.
None of which is positive for instilling confidence or encouraging others to want to do business with you.
Keep your signature files to no more than 5-6 lines. We don’t want to be to viewed as egocentric. Limit your signature to your name, website link, company name, and slogan/offer or phone number.
Include a link to your website where the recipient can get all your contact information from A-Z. That is what your website is for.
Do not forget to include the “https://” when including your Website address within emails and your signature file. This ensures the URL is recognized as a clickable URL regardless of the user’s software or platform.
You should do your best to respond to your business communications as quickly as possible. This is a customer service issue that should not be underestimated.
By not responding promptly you seem unorganized. Worse yet, you risk being outperformed by your competitors who understand the importance of appearing efficient and on the ball.
Rise Above the Majority
These very important issues will certainly allow your business communications to rise above the majority who do not take the time to understand and master these issues.
While texting isn’t really email, I do have an article for you to review since more and more business folks are using texting in their business communications.
READ: Business Texting Etiquette: 10 Tips for Professionals
When forging new business relationships and solidifying established partnerships, the level of professionalism and courtesy you relay in your business email communications will always gain clients over the competition that may be anemic, uninformed or just plain lazy in this area.
When it comes to business, regardless of mode of communication used, professionalism and courtesy never go out of style!