Email Etiquette; why it’s important and how to get better at it

Email is a fact of life in business communications. How you behave in email is an extension of your personal brand. It shows your professionalism, reliability, integrity, and ultimately, it shows someone if they want to work with you or not.

It is common practice that emails will take a few reminders before you receive a response. There are many reasons for this; the most common of which is: people are inundated with hundreds of emails per day and don’t have time to read or respond to them all. While it is not unusual for a person to receive hundreds of emails in day, there are ways to manage these emails. What is certain, is not responding to your emails in a timely manner leaves a bad taste in the respondents mouth.

Is an inability to manage your inbox a symptom of lack of discipline; is it a sign that you don’t care about the senders needs; or, is it a sign that you are overworked and can’t manage your time properly? Regardless of the reason, there are very few excuses that will appease someone waiting to hear from you. Furthermore, none of these are desired traits to have associated with your personal brand.

So, how can you fix it?

How do you become better at managing your email and as a result, your personal brand?

For starters, take the time to set up your email properly. Invent a folder naming system that works for your style. This might include general folders such as: to do, short term and long term follow up and reference; it might also include specific folders for each project, campaign, customer, lead, department or person. Be sure to add sub folders where, and when, appropriate. Add the folders you use most to your favourites section for ease of access.

The next step is to keep your inbox clean. Every email that comes in should be addressed in one of the following manners: delete, flag for follow up, move to the appropriate folder or respond immediately. If you do this upon receiving an email, your inbox will appear a lot more manageable. It is significantly less overwhelming to review an inbox with 15-20 emails than an inbox with 100+ emails, it’s really all about perception. Avoid letting your inbox build up to the point where you feel like you’re drowning.

Ensure you never miss responding to, or following up on, an email by including yourself in every email as a BCC recipient and flagging all emails that require further action. Alternatively, you can flag emails in your sent folder for further action. The latter could be preferable if digital storage space is an issue for your company.

Lastly and most importantly, think before you speak – or in this case, type. Put some thought into your words before you hit send. Keep in mind that tone and most literary devices are not easily translated in text; generally your email will always be taken more negatively than you intended. Keep your emails concise but informative. Most people will only skim your email, and as such miss key information, if it appears to be too long. With that in mind, remember that an email is not texting; recipients expect full words, not acronyms. If you think you can’t get your point across sufficiently enough in a short email, take it as a sign you should pick up the phone or schedule a meeting.

Be conscious of your overall email style. Your responsiveness, tone, and mannerisms says a lot about you. Don’t hurt your personal brand over something as mundane as email.

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