Email Etiquette: From Hey! to Best

I receive hundreds of emails a week and I’m always surprised at the approach some people take with email communication. From big wigs to students, there is never a shortage of interesting phrases, content and tones.

Perhaps I over think content and messaging because of what I do for a living, but I value people who take the time to read their emails one or twice before hitting send. Email is a powerful communication tool that is taken lightly by many. Since actually writing a letter or card is a dying art (one that I think needs to make a comeback), I approach writing emails the way I would write a letter. I always include a greeting and am formal and polite in my writing. Although email is lightning fast, that doesn’t mean your message should be reflective of the speed in which it was sent.

Here are my email faux pas with some suggested etiquette:

  • The casual greeting – Unless you’re emailing your BFF or mom, consider a greeting that fits the situation. Hey, what’s up, how’s it going and yo are INNAPPRORIATE at best. Even if you and your client are close, keep in mind your role. If you work for someone, keep it professional folks. Get back to basics and say good morning, good afternoon or something to that effect. No need to get creative with weird or too friendly greetings. The only thing worse than a weird greeting, is no greeting at all. I find it very rude when I receive an email with one sentence – no hello, how are you – I feel like someone’s barking at me. Make the effort and say hello!
  • The body – An email is not a novel, so I like to get all my facts in and get to the point. With a proper greeting in place and “hope you’re doing well,” I get straight to the meat of the email. This especially rings true in PR when you’re pitching a reporter. No one has time to scroll down and read your life story. If you can’t say it in a paragraph or two, pick up the phone.  Also, check your grammar and spelling before hitting send. Read your email out loud and make sure it makes sense. This is not a text message. No need to include acronyms no one but you and your friends understand. Comprende? FTBOMH, LOL! 

  • The awkward goodbye – This is usually my favorite part of an email in that people really go over the top with their particular ending of choice. I’m not a fan of a fancy ending that always seems disingenuous. My approach is to keep it simple. I say thank you when it’s appropriate or looking forward to hearing from you and then sign my name. That’s it. Here is a list of my personal pet peeve endings (sorry in advance if you’re a fan of any of these!): Best (always reminds me of Richard from Sex and the City), Warm regards (awkward and creepy) , Respectfully yours (too much, every time), With anticipation (too eager and too awkward), Cheers (I like this one for a friendly email, but if you don’t know the person it makes you sound like a wanabe Brit), Adios/Au revoir/Ciao/Namaste (Unless you speak the language and the recipient does too, the foreign goodbye is cheesy)

  • Ignoration nation – The only thing I dislike more than a poorly written email is no email at all. I make it a point to answer email ASAP! I check my inbox as much as I can and try to respond immediately. No one likes to be ignored. It’s also obnoxious to receive an email response after a deadline or an issue is resolved. Thanks for nothing! Timing is everything and it’s best to be early.

  • Phone call, please! – It has happened to the best of us. You write an email, saying something one way and someone else takes it in a completely unintended way. When it comes to sensitive subjects, don’t be lazy and pick up the phone. With an email, you can’t guarantee something will not be taken out of context, forwarded to the wrong person or the tone misinterpreted. If it’s important and deserves some attention and dialog, call the person and talk it out. Things can quickly get out of hand on an email chain and people can be offended. Use your words – spoken not written to ensure your point is taken and fully understood.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on email pet peeves and faux pas. I know we all approach it differently, but think about what you’re saying before you hit the send button. After it’s gone, you can’t take it back!

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