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Does email need etiquette…?

by on 7 Oct, 2010

I have a friend whose emails always impress me. He never wastes a single word, yet all of his messages are entertaining, informative, brief, and usually very, very amusing. He has a real talent.

As a writer I try to take great care of my emails, so always spellcheck them, for example. Once with the built-in spellchecker, then again using my own eye and brain. If my email is to have the desired effect – whatever that may be – then I recognise that I need to invest some time in creating it. I’ve found it’s a good habit to get into.

Yet despite this, mine are still much duller than those that my friend creates.

So to help me, and hopefully you, I’ve tried to come up with some pointers:

1.  Reply using the same length & layout. This suggests you have given the same care and attention to your writing as the person to whom you’re replying.

2. Be informal. Even in B2B communication, I always like to be a little friendlier and more relaxed than you might expect. I hope this is helping to break the ice, strike a chord, and start a productive working relationship. “Natural and conversational” is a good place to start when choosing your own writing style.

3.  Always, always check. If you have any spelling errors or clumsy grammar in your email, it creates a very poor impression. At best you”re lazy. Worst case?  You’re lazy, stupid, uncaring and ill-educated…

4. Compose yourself. Like any written message, your emails should have an opening, a central message, and a sign-off, no matter how brief.

5. Imagine you’re receiving it. Use empathy to put yourself in your recipient’s place. Does the email really do what you want it to do? Is your message clear and unambiguous? Does it strike the right tone?

6. Copy yourself in. Then it’s just a lot easier to just save the original message, and your reply, in one folder.

7. But check those copies. It’s ALL too easy to send it to the wrong list, or copy in someone by accident, or hit “reply all”. So, always check the email header!

Emails are great, and have certainly accelerated commercial communication. But just because they’re easy and convenient, it’s no excuse to treat them as scruffy notes passed around the classroom.

Have fun writing, and for more tips please check out our FREE content page here.

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2 Comments
  1. Cogently put. I particularly like no. 4, and wish people would observe it.

  2. Thanks Steve, nice to know you agree.
    Too many people write emails for their own convenience, rather than their reader’s benefit.
    Maybe if they weren’t so easy, we’d take more care…!

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