Ruchi is counselling Kunal on an HNI customer escalation. The customer, Mr. Sangi, took issue with a series of emails that he received from Kunal, among other things.
Ruchi was able to point out to Kunal the error of his ways with some aspects of emailing, and Kunal agreed that it made sense to abide by 5 email etiquette rules, namely:
Email Etiquette: Rule 1: Always Respond
Email Etiquette: Rule 2: Avoid Texting Lingo
Email Etiquette: Rule 3: Be thorough, but know when to switch away from e-mail communication
Email Etiquette: Rule 4: Proofread Your Emails
Email Etiquette: Rule 5: Pay attention to your tone of writing
Ruchi however, noticed Kunal doing a few things fabulously well on emails, and wants to discuss these practices with him. The conversation continues…
So, yeah. You said you didn’t have a lot of exposure to email. However, there are some e-mail practices you follow even seasoned professionals fail to get right.
(Ruchi smiles and looks at Kunal)
Do you have any idea what I’m referring to here?
Yea, I guess. One of the things I learned about email early on, is how you should be spot on with the subject line of the email. So, I take a lot of care to ensure my subject lines are perfectly drafted.Ruchi
Yes, indeed. Your subject lines are well crafted. Just out of curiosity. What did you learn about drafting subject lines early on?
Let’s see. The learning material I chanced upon suggested it was really terrible practice to leave subject lines blank. That just irritates the email recipient. On the other hand, it’s very respectful of the recipients’ time to be specific, clear and relevant in drafting a subject line.
True enough. Here’s a good example. This is an email you sent Mr. Sangi containing the minutes of the meeting you had with him and his team on 15th June.
Your subject line: “Minutes of meeting from 15th June on corporate portfolio discussion”. That’s specific, clear and relevant”
To your mind, what would be a bad subject line for this email?
A Bad subject line would be “MoM for today”
Email Etiquette: Rule 6: Use an accurate subject line
Subject lines are a great way for recipients to gauge the content of your email. It pays, therefore, to be specific, clear and relevant. Your recipient can thus make informed decisions about to open your email and prioritize their work accordingly. Furthermore, it makes it so much easier to search for and locate at a later date. That’s why an email with a blank subject line will likely get deleted, lost, or immediately irritate the recipient, who is forced to open the email to figure out what it’s about. If the topic of an email changes after a few exchanges, start a fresh chain of emails with an accurate subject line.(Ruchi) (Laughs)
Yes. That would be ridiculous. (Pauses) Moving on, I like the way you deal with salutations.
You mean the ‘Dear Mr. Sangi’ bit. Yes, I pay a lot of attention to that too.
Yes, I see that in all your emails. What do you pay attention to when it comes to salutations?
For instance, I receive a lot of emails where I am addressed as ‘Dear Mr. Kunal’. That’s just terrible grammar. It just sounds very wrong, especially to someone in an English-speaking country. The correct way to address me would be either ‘Dear Mr. Jha’ or ‘Hello Kunal’ if the email sender were being formal. If the email sender wanted to be informal, just a ‘Hi Kunal’ would be perfect.
So I’ve addressed my client as either Dear Mr. Sangi or Hi Jagdish, depending on the nature of the email. And I have never skipped a salutation.
Email Etiquette: Rule 7: Get your salutations right.
The correct syntax for salutations are:
• Dear/Hello Mr. Kunal Jha
• Dear/Hello Ms./Mrs. Ruchi Saxena
• Dear/Hello Mr. Jha
• Dear/Hello Ms./Mrs. Saxena
• Dear/Hello/Hi Kunal/Ruchi
It’s a good idea to always start with the most respectful way of addressing someone. Greet them with ‘Dear Mr./Ms.,’ and then depending on how they refer to themselves in their responses, you can follow their lead.” And never forgo the greeting altogether. That just sounds abrupt and a little rude.
I meant what I said about seasoned professionals getting these things wrong with email. Especially this next rule, which you have implemented for yourself.
Hmm. Let’s see. We’ve dealt with almost every part of emails. So, you must be referring to the end part of an email. You’re right. I do pay attention to those details too.
(Smiles, and is about to ask a question)
I know, I know. You want to check if I’m actually aware of what I’m doing right with e-mail endings, right?
Yes. It’s more fun to hear you say it, that me telling you what it is.
So I watch my signoffs and make sure not to skip it. So, on my emails, I always sign off with ‘Best Regards, or ‘Regards’ or ‘Thanks and Regards’. For very formal emails, I use ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’
You mentioned you have seen seasoned professionals get it wrong. Have you seen any questionable signoffs?
Yes. I once saw an email where the RM signed off typing ‘Ciao’. There was another email where the sender typed their signoff simply as ‘Later,’
That’s so funny. To avoid missing out on a signoff, I just add ‘Best Regards’ to my signature as a default, and then change it as needed.
That brings me to my signature. I’m sure you’ve noticed, it’s very detailed. My signature includes my full name, the company name, the company website address, official social media platforms, and my phone number. Just so my clients know how to reach me and access company information if they need to.
Good job. I can’t tell you how many complaints I have received from clients saying they couldn’t call RMs quickly, because no details were mentioned on their signatures.
Email Etiquette: Rule 8: End emails professionally.
When signing off, it’s best to use a common, professional sign-off such as “Best Regards”, or even “Thank you.” Avoid using casual sign-off like “Catch you later” or, even worse, no sign-off at all. Never sign your name all in lowercase, as it makes you appear inexperienced. You should also include a professional email signature, specifying your title, company name, and additional contact information. You don’t want to send your recipient on an online treasure hunt just to find your contact information, do you?
Phew! Great. That’s all I had to discuss with you, Kunal. I think you’ve got some great email practices working for you. You should keep that up. As for the ones Mr. Sangi complained about, hopefully, this is the last time we’ll be speaking about it, right?
Absolutely. I’m going to sort that out right away. Thanks for your help and advice there.
No worries. So, you all set for your holidays? You’re off on a trip in two days’ time, right?
Yes. I’m really looking forward to this vacation. Which reminds me, I need to set up my vacation auto-responder. I’d rather let clients and work colleagues know won’t be responding to emails, rather than have them wondering if I’m ignoring them. Because like you said earlier, The only thing more important than writing a good email is responding to one.
Lovely. I’m very impressed, Kunal.
Email Etiquette: Rule 9: Do set up a vacation auto-responder.
Don’t leave people wondering why you aren’t responding to their emails. Let people know the time period during which you won’t be available, and who they can contact if they need assistance. Setting up a vacation auto-responder will thus ensure you won’t receive frantic calls from people about emails they sent you while you’re right in the middle of your holiday.
******* Bonus *******
Email Etiquette: Rule 10: Know when to ‘Reply’, and when to ‘Reply all’:
There are circumstances when ‘reply all’ is warranted, but certainly not on every email. Would you want to read endless waves of emails from the entire organization saying ‘Congratulations on receiving the CEO recognition award’ when it wasn’t you who won it? Ignoring these emails can be difficult, and with so many other emails coming your way, it can really be a nuisance, no?. So, avoid hitting “reply all” unless you really believe everyone on the response list needs to receive the email.
Email, as a medium of communication, is here to stay, by extension, and so is email etiquette. A lot rides on one’s ability to communicate professionally. Because people judge others on the way they communicate. It remains paramount therefore to play by email etiquette rules if one is to be thoroughly professional, and be perceived as such. After all, what’s the alternative?In conclusion, the ten email etiquette rules we covered in this two-part lesson are:
Rule 1: Always Respond
Rule 2: Avoid Texting Lingo
Rule 3: Be thorough, but know when to switch away from e-mail communication
Rule 4: Proofread Your Emails
Rule 5: Pay attention to your tone of writing
Rule 6: Use an accurate subject line
Rule 7: Get your salutations right.
Rule 8: End emails professionally.
Rule 9: Do set up a vacation auto-responder.
Rule 10: Know when to reply and when to reply all
Good luck with it! Please scroll down to take the quiz.