In the world of business, we use email for many, many things. For instance, it helps us share special deals with our clients, we use it to communicate expectations with our partners and colleagues, and it even enables us to provide necessary employment-related information (like changes in policies or procedures) to our staff. However, that doesn’t always mean that we use it correctly.
Certainly, with everything else that is important to know and remember when running a business, email etiquette may understandably be low on the I’ve-got-to-learn-that-someday list. However, when using the internet to converse with those around, it us can have an impact on our business, either helping us grow bigger and stronger as a company or potentially diminishing our impact or harming our reputation. So being familiar with the basics is probably a good idea.
To find out what those basics were, I checked with a few different experts on the topic and this is what I found:
About the Content…
Email Tray (along with a couple other professionals I found) stresses that, when it comes to content for your business email, the best thing you can do is “make your message brief and to the point.” In other words, include only the information necessary to communicate what it is you have to say. Nothing more and nothing less.
I also once learned that it was best to only address one issue per email so it doesn’t confuse the recipient and so some issues don’t get inadvertently overlooked and go unanswered or unaddressed. This also makes it easier for the recipient to find the email again should the need arise, as the subject line should clearly say what one issue it is about. I’ve found that this has worked well for me in my dealings with clients, so that’s why I am sharing it with you.
About the Opening and Closing…
This is always a sticky area for me as I’m never sure if I should address the recipient by the first name or Mr. or Mrs. I’ve also struggled with the closing, as I want to sound professional, yet personal. So what do the experts recommend?
The Emily Post Institute suggests that it’s okay to use first names, but if you’re sending your email to more than three people, it may be better to say “Dear Team.” Also, if you’re replying to an email, the salutation is only necessary the first time you respond. After that, if you have to reply again, no formal opening is required.
Regarding closings, the institute says that “it’s important to have a strong finish, particularly in business emails,” although they don’t say what a strong finish is. So I checked with Net [email protected] who reports that some of the most popular sign offs include:
- Regards (or Best Regards)
- Thank you
- Take care
Additionally, don’t forget to include your contact information (if you haven’t already set up your signature to post automatically), so they have a way of getting back with you should the need arise.
About Spelling and Grammar…
There’s not much worse than receiving an email from a business that contains spelling or grammar problems, improper punctuation, or some other type of error that sticks out like a sore thumb. As 101 Email Etiquette Tips explains, emails with these types of issues “are simply not taken seriously,” which obviously isn’t going to help your business at all.
So take a couple seconds and read through your content to make sure it is correct. Look for missing or improperly placed words, words that are spelled wrong, punctuation that is either missing or incorrect, or any other error that you can find. Sometimes it even helps to read it aloud as this slows you down and makes it easier to notice if something is missing or off.
And, Finally, a Word About Emoticons…
This is a big issue for a lot of people. Do you use emoticons or not? According to IT Business Edge, emoticons in business emails are always a no as “they just aren’t professional and you don’t know how the recipient will take them.” However, for what it’s worth, once I’ve been working with someone for a little while, if they send me an emoticon in an email, it actually helps warm me up to them a little and shows me that they have a personal side as well.
So, my personal thought is that they’re okay if your communication is short and friendly and you’ve been working together for some time. But I’d definitely steer clear of them in formal communication, such as business proposals, emails that contain information that is slightly negative in nature (such as an email saying you can’t grant requested time off), or emails that you’re exchanging with someone you don’t know well enough to also consider them a friend.
What do you think does or does not belong in a business email? Feel free to comment below!
I’m always interested in learning other small business owners’ thoughts on relevant topics and issues, so if you have a comment or unique article idea, feel free to contact me at [email protected] (put “Businessing Magazine” in the subject line, please). If I use it, it’s a free link to your website!