Oh, the years of snail mail. We were too young to appreciate them, but what we wouldn’t give to have the freedom to wait a week to return a letter, or a few days to return a phone call. But we’ve adapted, and have perfected the art that is writing an email. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, the emails we receive in return are simply not up to par. We’re going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt and say that no one ever taught you the rules of email, so, here are the basics of email etiquette.
There are many different spectrums of emails, all of which require a certain sense of formality. An email could easily be forwarded, printed out, or saved at any moment; meaning that you’ll want to come off as professional and put together in any setting.
An e-mail should always have a subject line. There is nothing sketchier than a (No Subject) email. Make sure you have the correct address for the recipient, to avoid wasting time and embarrassing mishaps. As for BCCs and CCs, use with caution. An accidental CC can be detrimental to a friendship or professional relationship, particularly if your email is not professional (shame on you). BCCs should be used rarely; if you are concerned about someone being seen on an email, they probably shouldn’t be a part of it.
It is always important to address the recipient, even if it’s a close friend. A simple Hi XX, will suffice. When reaching out to someone you’ve never met, err on the side of formal. Dear Mr. XX, is your best bet, after which you may match the recipient’s tone. It is extremely inappropriate to jump immediately into whatever the email is in reference to. Even a simple “Hope you are well” is enough. If you can reference something you know about the person, a recent accomplishment (new job) or event (wedding anniversary), or you can mention something you discussed the last time you spoke (follow up on the cooking class they took), this care and attention to detail will be greatly appreciated. After this, it is appropriate to begin discussing the subject matter of the email. It is equally important to close your emails as it is to open them. Best, Respectfully, or Thanks are our preferred responses, followed by our first name if the recipient is familiar, full name if not.
An email signature should always be present after closing. The signature should include your name, your position or title, and any contact information you deem necessary. There’s nothing we hate more than seeing “sent from my iPhone” at the end of an email. Check your settings and create a real signature. And if you have something “quirky” as your signature, particularly referencing typos or auto-correct, we loathe you. Be professional.
As for response time, a 24 hour turnaround is not absurd. Even if the reply is “Hi XX, I’ll look into X and get back to you by (date)”, at least the recipient knows that you’ve actually taken the time to look at the email. If someone doesn’t respond to your email within five business days, it is appropriate to send a follow up, if the subject is time sensitive. A simple “Hi XX, Hope you’re well. Just wanted to follow up here and see if XYZ…”. Anything with a rude tone is a definite don’t. If they don’t respond again, a phone call is appropriate.
We know some of you are prone to email anxiety when crafting the perfect message–so by all means, save this post to save yourself from future stress.