Etiquette is the simple art of letting someone else know they are valued. In small business it makes sense that you would want to pay attention to proper business email etiquette as you communicate with your customers, vendors, employees, and prospects.

Business email is frequently sent to people only somewhat familiar with one another. Knowing and practicing business etiquette in your email is helpful to both you and your contact.

Email etiquette takes into consideration your reader’s time and pressures. You should be about simplifying your reader’s busy life.

Email Etiquette Basics:

Keep emails simple. Write concisely, communicate all that must be said in a few, accurate words.

Write clearly. Though emails should be short, make sure that you have covered every detail. Do not assume knowledge, explain all important details. If action is required by your reader, this also should be clearly stated.

Know your readers. Select both tone and wording with your reader in mind. If you do not know your correspondent well, your language should be slightly less formal than a business letter, but not as informal as a business telephone conversation. Technical terms are appropriate for a technical audience, but don’t assume expertise where none exists.

Limit attachments. Don’t carelessly fill someone’s inbox with careless attachments. Ask to ensure that your reader wants the information, can open it, and has a system that will not filter it out. You may find it easier to email a fifty page lease, your reader may prefer that it be faxed, mailed, or downloaded directly.

Proofread. Nothing shouts shoddiness more loudly than poorly worded, poorly spelled, ungrammatical writing. Do you want your work done by a slipshod person? Neither do your customers. Spell checking is convenient; there is no reason not to avail yourself of the opportunity before you push the send button. You know spell checking doesn’t catch everything. Reread your email after spell checking. In addition, every article or advertising piece should be proofread by someone whose criticism you trust.

Use subject lines. Readers will decide within seconds, based on your subject line, whether to delete, read or keep your email. It is frustrating, to have to open and read an entire email just to find out it was not about the project whose deadline is this afternoon.

Suppress email address lists. When using an email list to send emails to multiple people, especially if they are unknown to each other, suppress the address list. Do you want your address given to a stranger? Of course not. Your customers do not either.

Because the idea behind email etiquette is consideration for others, there are many other things that could be said. We could discuss the importance of using simple greetings and salutations, or the precise length of signature lines, but you can use your good sense. What you find frustrating or delete without looking at, others will too. What you find helpful and pleasant will no doubt help and please your reader.


By Steven Schlagel – June 23, 2009