Email Etiquette: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

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In the modern era, e-mail has become a go-to form of communication (apologies to the carrier pigeons it put out of a job). We not only use it to keep in touch with relatives and friends, but we also use it to communicate with the people we live with. Why walk all the way upstairs and ask your spouse what they want for dinner when you can send a message to their smartphone?

As important as it is to friendships and familial relationships, email is even more crucial to business. Now, with the global pandemic raging outside and many people working from home, it’s, perhaps, the most important mode of contact. It’s social-distanced and cootie-free.  

But, as vital as it may be, email certainly has its fair share of limitations. And that means we must practice proper etiquette whenever using it for business. 

So, what kinds of things should we consider? Start with the following five tips:

Don’t Email Anything You’ll Want to Take Back: Email is like diamonds; it’s forever. Sending an email to a coworker that speaks ill of your boss might come back to bite you in your assets. Even if you trust the coworker, things happen (and people do betray us, too). 

Know Sarcasm Doesn’t Translate: One of my number one rules of dating is simple: Not understanding sarcasm is a deal-breaker. And perhaps this is why I’ve never entertained the advances of AOL or Hotmail (no matter how hot of a male it claims to be). Sarcasm just doesn’t translate over email. The invention of emojis helps circumvent this somewhat, but without the recipient able to hear the tone of your voice, you might come across as insulting, something you certainly don’t want to be towards customers or clients. 

Ban the Brevity: Brevity in business is generally a good thing, but when used in email, shortness can land as curtness. If a coworker sends you an email about wanting to meet to discuss a project and you respond with a single word (or, worst, a single letter (“k”)), it’s a turn off. It’s okay to be brief, but do it in one or two word sentences. 

Use Punctuation: Periods, commas, and the like aren’t always used in email. Simply, it’s faster to put the punctuation out to pasture. Not only that, but people sending an email using voice typing won’t always add punctuation because it’s unnatural to say “period” after every thought. Yet the downside to not using punctuation is that the email feels unprofessional, hurried, and scattered. It can come across as rageful too, especially if the topic is contentious. 

Beware the “Reply All”: It’s a tale as old as time: The boss sends an annoying or condescending email; the employee makes fun of said email in a message meant for their coworker; the employee accidentally hits “Reply All”; the employee notices their mistake 1.5 seconds later. The best way to avoid this mistake is to never say anything negative about management. Since that’s not realistic, just double check who’s on the send list, instead. 

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