Making email etiquette mistakes in the workplace it’s not going to capsize your career. But learning the unspoken rules of writing professional emails will affect how competent you are perceived to be in the eyes of your colleagues. And since there are no standardized training courses for this here are the very real benefits of getting good at emailing in the workplace.
Email etiquette in the workplace
Think back to the last time you received a poorly written email, you might have had to reread it a few times to get the main point and the action items might have been scattered all over the place. Worst case scenario, it led to an unnecessarily long back and forth email thread that could have been avoided had the initial email been properly planned out and therein lies the beauty of well crafted emails.
Not only does it help you the sender come across as more capable by showcasing strong communication skills, but also saves the reader so much of their time by only surfacing information relevant to them.
Have a call to action [CTA] when appropriate in the email subject line
Most of us are familiar with a generic action required in subject lines all right? My recommendation is just take it a step further and include exactly what you need the recipient to do and the estimated time it takes for them to do it.
For example, instead of writing “[Action required] feedback for project X“, write “[5 minutes survey]” feedback for project X” instead.
This very small trick probably gave you a lot more context. Or if it’s not appropriate to include the estimated time, be specific about the call to action.
For example, instead of “Spending estimates for Q4” write “[Elon to approve] spending estimates for Q4“. So Elon knows what’s expected of him even before he opens the email.
Stick with one email thread for the same topic
The general rule of thumb here is to stick to the original email chain for any given topic. So everyone can refer to the same information.
Email etiquette – Explain why you added in or took out recipients in email threads
There are many situations you have to add someone in to the email thread to get their input, or take someone out to spare their inbox. A professional and easy way to do this is to add a sentence at the very top of the email clearly showing who you added in or took out. I’d like to add parentheses and italicize the font to separate it from the actual email body. This way the readers know who the new recipients are immediately.
Example – [+ Black Panther for visibility, – Tony Stark because he is on a trip]
Main point first, followed by context
Senders include a lot information up front, but what they’re really trying to get at or ask for is at the very end of the email. To avoid that always include your main point first, followed by the context.Just compare these two emails.
Hi Jane, My name is Jeff and I'm in the product marketing team. We're preparing a forecast deck for the big boss and he's looking for the revenue projection numbers for the secret electric car that's launching soon. Can I trouble you to pull that data for me? Thanks, Jeff
Compare that with,
Hi Jane, May I please trouble you for the electric car revenue projection numbers? Context The product marketing team is currently preparing a forecast deck for the big boss and we're hoping to use the projections to fight for more budget. It would be amazing to get numbers for 2025 to 2030 in a Google Sheets format. Thanks, Jeff
By pushing the context back, we’re giving the other person the option to read the not so important part of the email. Oftentimes when we’re emailing someone more senior than us. We feel obligated to explain why we’re emailing right at the beginning so it doesn’t seem like we’re bothering them. This is actually counter productive because if the person is very senior they probably just want to know what you’re emailing them about, how they can help deal with it then move on with their own schedules.
Summarize with your reply
If you receive an email with a lot of disorganized content. Summarize the sender’s main points for them in your reply. So if you receive an email from someone who sent you a long wordy convoluted message you have to reread a few times you want to do two things.
Take a few minutes identify and bucket common themes from their email. And summarize their message in a few sentences before responding to whatever they’re emailing you about. Not only does this help you confirm your understanding is correct, the other party will appreciate the extra effort you took to help them organize their thoughts.
Email etiquette – Hyperlink whenever possible
If you’re sharing a link with someone over email, you really should take the extra few seconds to hit Command+K on Mac or Control+K on Windows and hyperlink the external website or video. Not only to this looks so much cleaner to the recipient than just pasting the big clunky link. But it also decreases the chances of you making a mistake by adding an extra letter or deleting one in the original URL.
Change default setting to reply instead of reply all
Let’s say your reply to an email in a rush and you do make a mistake. The damage is contained to that one recipient. Because your default setting is a reply to one person instead of reply to all. This is a standard setting and most if not all of the popular email clients. And you can usually find this in the general settings section.
Change undo send option to 30 seconds
We send an email, we go into the sent email folder to read it from the other person’s perspective. And we realize something is wrong. Again this is a standard setting you can play around with in all of the email apps. Instead of the default five seconds undo send, for example, we continue to 30 seconds for good measure.