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10 etiquettes of email writing

Email-embarrassments come in all shapes and sizes and they are almost irreparable if you are dealing with a new client or applying for a job. But precaution is better than cure, eh? To make life simpler, here is an easy 10-point checklist to blunder-proof your email etiquettes.

1. Have an official email address

Yes, it’s about time to let go of that email id that you created in high school. Even if you don’t have an official email id, sticking with is definitely not okay. Not only does it dampen your image in the eyes of your client or your future employer but it also creates a frivolous air around you. So even though you might not have a company email yet, create something presentable on one of the many email service providers.

2. Know the basics

To, Cc and Bcc are not interchangeable. The ‘To’ field includes the primary recipient(s) of your email. ‘Cc,’ on the other hand, is basically a carbon copy of your email that is sent to the people you add in this field. It can be used to keep certain people in the email loop even if they are not the primary recipients. It is important to note that the primary recipients can see the email addresses in the ‘Cc’ field. Which is why a ‘Bcc’ (Blind Carbon copy) comes in handy in tricky situations where you don’t want the primary recipients to know that other people are reading the email too.

Bcc can also be used to protect the email ids of your clients or colleagues. Since it is a ‘blind’ carbon copy, the email addresses in this field are not visible to any of the other recipients. It is a very good professional practice to add all the email ids in the Bcc field while sending mass emails to ensure that no ids are unnecessarily disclosed.

3. Include a relevant (and complete) subject line

“About the meeting.” Now you tell me if this subject line makes any complete sense at all. What meeting? The one that Narendra Modi had with Barack Obama? While a subject line certainly needs to be kept short, it also needs to be descriptive enough about the contents of the email. Remember, people receive an unimaginable amount of emails each day and a vague subject line can as good as usher your email to the trash. “Meeting date changed,” or “A few questions about tomorrow’s meeting” hold a better chance of your email being read.

4. Don’t over or underplay the salutation

After your perfect subject line has played its trick, the salutation is the next big thing that the recipient will see. “Respected sir,” in itself is a tautology of sorts. One addresses another person as sir because one respects him. “Dear Sir,” or “Hello, Mr ABC,” would definitely sound better. But something like “Hey Paul!” could be inappropriate in most professional scenarios. Stick to “Hi”. It’s safer.

5. Rethink before hitting ‘Reply All’

Hitting ‘Reply All’ for each and every email that you receive isn’t really a smart idea. ‘Reply All’ sends your reply to everyone who is in the ‘To’ and the ‘Cc’ fields of the email that you are replying to. So think. Does your reply really concern all the people you will be sending it to? Are you sure it’s okay for all those people to read your reply? If not, refrain from hitting ‘Reply All.’ Save yourself the embarrassment and others the irritation of an unnecessary email in their already-bursting inbox.

6. Limit the use of emoticons and abbreviations

🙂 is okay. 😛 or 😉 isn’t. Use the good ol’ smiley but don’t go overboard. Funny experiments with these emoticons can cost you dearly. Though they are okay while texting, it is better to use them judiciously in an email. And the same goes for abbreviations and the text-lingo. Keep them to a minimal. The recipient of your email may not necessarily know what ‘PFA’ means. So if you are writing for the first time, don’t take your chances. Just type the whole thing out.

7. Don’t decorate the email body

Playing around too much with the font of the email can make it look really unprofessional. Use Arial or Times New Roman and always make it a point to Justify the alignment of the text. Don’t use too many colours to highlight important points; bold, italics and underline can do the work for you. Keeping it simple is easy on the eyes of the reader and makes your email look professional and clear.

8. Tidy-up the email before replying or forwarding

Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an email that has chains and chains of conversations. Just like you, people do not have the time to comb through the miles of conversations before they find the part that actually concerns them. So tidy it up. Change the subject line before forwarding or replying to make it relevant for your reader. Delete all the unwanted parts of the email such as the conversations that have are now redundant, the various unnecessary links and email ids, etc and send only the parts that are important to the reader.

9. Include a valid signature

After having done everything right, signing off as “Ciao!” can still cause troubles. “Thanks and regards” or “Warm regards” are your safest bets depending on the context. It is also a good professional practice to mention the name of your company and your post along with your name while signing off the email. Some professionals also prefer to include their contact numbers and social media profiles. But don’t include the links to each of your social media accounts or to each blog that you have ever written. Links to your LinkedIn or Twitter profiles should be enough.

10. Proofread, proofread and proofread

Never rely entirely on spell-check. It won’t show the error if you write “Please sing the documents” instead of “Please sign the documents.” So be your own worst critic and check and recheck everything that you have written. Better to spend a minute more now than having to live with an embarrassing email for the rest of forever!

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Sonali Kulkarni - Editor-in-Chief, French-English Translator A novice at adulthood and an ardent disciple of Dan Brown and Ayn Rand, Sonali is a pathological bookworm, a borderline nerdy introvert and a hardcore adventure junkie who cannot live without chocolate. She is currently studying French and manages to speak some Spanish too. Having represented her state in national level Athletics for the better part of a decade, the nomad in her has now given it up to venture into the exciting world of languages, writing and travel.