Newport Manners & Etiquette: Email Etiquette Update

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


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Q.  My employees don't know how to send a decent email. Not just to me, but their emails to clients are often, brisk, rude, sloppy and either too friendly or cold, or too long and wordy. I would like to send an email around to the staff with guidelines as to how to write a decent email. What are the dos and don't for an email?  E.M., Providence

A.  If need be, you can forward this answer to your employees as a staff memo.

Subject: Email Guide for All Employees

When you're taking the time to write an email, you want to make it easy for a busy person to read and respond to in a timely fashion. Brevity and personalizing are key to catching the recipient's attention.

Always make use of the subject line: A quick tax tip (or question); Lunch October 12th?; Here's the info you asked for.

After opening a long email, how often do you Save it to read later? You then forget about it. Right?

To avoid having your email deleted or forgotten, put yourself in the recipient's shoes and assist him or her in assessing -- at a glance -- if your email is: 1. spam, 2. too time consuming, and 3. a matter of interest to them: What does he want from me? What can this person (you) do for me?

To hold their attention, make it a Me-mail about him or her and not only about you, by using a subject line about them: You'll like this proposal or Info for your vacation. In other words, make the first glance a helpful hint of what comes next.

Then use a personalized salutation, such as Dear George, or Dear Mr. Magoo, and you've made them feel special by respectfully addressing them by name -- and don't address anyone as Hey dude. For business, don't use a greeting or opening line such as Hi or Hey, as in "Hey, what do you think of this business plan?" Instead, use his name and write, George, this plan can work for you.

The only time you wouldn't need a greeting is when the email is to a good friend or relative with whom you communicate frequently. They know you by your email address and you're dialoguing about Thanksgiving plans or a movie you're going to see. But still give them the heads up in the subject line to peak their interest or to assure them that your message is brief: Quick tax question or What time is lunch today?

Lead with an introduction. Even if you've met the person once or twice, introduce yourself.  We met at lunch with David Crawford two weeks ago. You were looking for someone to restore your house and I'd like to set up an appointment. Throw out a date and time and he'll come back with the best day for him. Include a link to your website where he can see houses you recently restored.

Whether the goal of the email is simply to make contact, ask a favor, or to give a persuasive sales pitch, write brief, focused emails in short sentences within short paragraphs. You don't want their interest to wane, because brevity is always more persuasive.

Instead of including an infographic and/or image within the text, be efficient and provide a link they can download and look at later.

In closing, ask for a response by a certain time or date:  Can you let me know by the end of today (as long as today isn't a Monday or Friday) or In order to go forward with the plan, we'll need a reply by October 1st.

You can follow-up once, because they may have missed your first email, but a second follow-up can be annoying.

Encourage the recipient to respond immediately by adding a request for confirmation, as in Please, confirm your current contact, is a polite way of pushing for a quick reply.

Most importantly, before pressing Send, proofread your email for spelling and grammar and edit out any redundancy by asking yourself: Am I being a repetitive bore? How can I make this e-mail shorter -- a quicker read? To have even more intent focus?

Always use a respectful closing:  Kind regards, Kindest regards, Most sincerely, Cheers (for friends), or even Let's keep in touch.  

Instead of cc-ing or blind copying your email, your message will look special -- and not as though it is part of a mass emailing -- if, after sending it to the recipient, you forward it to others from your Sent box.

Beneath your closing, include your full name, title, company, address, phone number, website and email address, but hold back on the social media buttons, logos and never use emoticons, because many of us think they're silly and/or unprofessional.  ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners. The best q-and-a of the week appears here weekly.


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