Good email etiquette

Your image and your email

You know how important your image is. You’ve taken care to use a great headshot for your profile picture. But are your emails profiling you in the same, positive way? 

We generally don’t notice good spelling and grammar, but poor spelling can grate on us. Similarly, we won’t notice an email style that chimes with us – but we will notice one that puts our backs up.

As an example, what do you think of the person who wrote this?

Example of a poorly-written email

The answers that typically come out in our email masterclasses (or at least the answers we can print) include: hopeless, hapless, twit, careless, stupid and sloppy – the unsuccessful seven dwarves.

Two principles for great email etiquette

How would it be instead to produce reactions like: professional, friendly, clear-thinking, smart, on-the-ball?

To start eliciting these more positive reactions we need to understand two principles.

Firstly, there’s no one correct way to write an email. There are no objective standards we have all learned (as we may have learned about business letters). Effectively, we’ve just made up how we think it should be. Worse, we think the way we have made it up is clearly the right way – and if you don’t do it the same as me, you’re obviously doing it wrong.

The best way to start?

For example, what’s the best way to start an email? Is it Dear, Hi, Name, Yo? Is it nothing at all because you don’t have the time to use salutations?

Those salutations are all correct – but they’re also all potentially incorrect. It would be just as wrong for me to write to an important client, starting “Hey Chris, how’s it going?” as it would for me to write to my nephew, “Dear Rosco. Further to your email of last Thursday…” so you need to match your greeting to the other person’s expectations.

The second principle is that email is very restricted as a communications medium. People often write emails with a tone of voice in their head. We think we’re making an ironic comment because we have an ironic voice in our head as we type. The bad news is that voice doesn’t go as an attachment. What arrives can sometimes seem a sarcastic, aggressive or even an ignorant comment.

Once you understand these principles, you can step into the other person’s shoes. Aim to understand how they will perceive your message. Then tweak the different parts of the email to achieve the result you want.

How you can solve these problems

To help you through his minefield we have packaged simple solutions to all these problems (and more) in our masterclasses. Sign up and you can watch our video briefings any time, any place you have an internet connection.

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You wouldn’t use a profile picture with egg on your lapel – so why are you sending emails like that?