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Email Etiquette 101

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By Townes Haas   |    December 19, 2016   |    10:17 AM

Poor email etiquette has the potential to harm your reputation both professionally and personally.

Unfortunately, in the age of demanding schedules, it's quite easy to click "send" without paying close attention to what you've typed. To avoid embarrassing and costly errors, learn some fundamental tips for improving your netiquette.

  • Only discuss public matters. There are countless troubling stories of "private" e-mails finding their way through a company’s food chain. Before you click send, ask yourself if you'd post your message on company letterhead or to a bulletin board for everyone to see.

  • Briefly introduce yourself. Never assume a contact or lead remembers meeting you. An extensive biography of yourself isn't necessary; however, you should lead in with a brief reminder of why the contact should care who you are.

  • Proofread. Sloppy emails reflect poorly on a business professional. Before clicking send, look for inappropriate homonyms, misspellings, punctuation and grammar errors. After all, there's a big difference between "public relations" and "pubic relations."

  • Stay concise. Remember that busy schedules make it difficult for professionals to address every email with an appropriate level of interest. Show you have respect for the recipient's time by keeping your message short and sweet.

  • Avoid acronyms, abbreviations and buzzwords. These can confuse recipients and make you look less professional. Write in clear language using full words and layman's terms. While there may be exceptions depending on the recipient, it's generally best to err on the side of caution, especially with unfamiliar contacts.

  • Don't criticize. It's very easy for one of your messages to end up in the wrong person's inbox. Avoid criticizing coworkers or clients. Remember not to type anything you wouldn't want to stand behind if it became common knowledge.

  • Respond in a timely manner. Unless it's an emergency, you don't necessarily need to respond to an email instantly. That said, you shouldn't wait more than 24 to 48 hours to respond, especially if the message relates to a business matter.

  • Avoid text-style messaging. Never use emoticons or shortcuts to real words. For instance, don't say "ur" instead of “your” or "gr8" instead of “great.” Spell everything out and use complete sentences, or your professionalism may be called into question.

  • Don't email angry. If you are feeling emotionally charged, step away from the computer. Go for a walk or delay your response for 24 hours. Whatever it takes, make sure you cool down before you send someone a regretful message.

  • Double check the address. Almost all of us have sent an errant email to the wrong person. Many times, this amounts to a harmless inconvenience; other times, it can be a catastrophic error. Always verify the recipient address before you click send, especially if you are sending confidential information related to your business.

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