Email etiquette at workFebruary 25, 2013
Based on a writing tip I wrote recently for my work colleagues.
Do you have any information on etiquette/guidelines/best practise for emails, specifically when not to CC people who may have been on an original email? I see a lot of emails that start off as a simple one-way communication, i.e. not necessarily expecting a conversation, where people are CC’ed (managers or supervisors usually) that then escalates into a back and forth discussion, not necessarily in a bad way, but where all original participants are retained.
Good question, Brad.
Below I’ve compiled a list of etiquette rules for internal email that I gleaned from several websites that deal with this question (see the links at the end). I haven’t ranked them in any particular order, and I haven’t expanded too much on any of them as they should be self-explanatory (if you need more detail, see the links):
- Begin with a simple greeting, and end with ‘Thanks’, ‘Regards’ or similar as well as your signature (set up an automated signature in Outlook 2007 by going to Tools > Options > Mail Format tab > Signatures button)
- Make sure the subject line reflects the contents of the email
- Be as concise as possible; use bullet points or short paragraphs, with just one idea per paragraph or bullet point
- Ask permission before forwarding another person’s email
- Reply in a timely fashion
- Send personal emails from your PERSONAL account, not the company’s
- All work email (even deleted mail) is the property of the company and is NOT private
- Don’t send chain mail, forwards, hoaxes, jokes, or other unprofessional emails to your work colleagues (see link below for urban legends and hoaxes)
- Before clicking ‘Send’, re-read your message and check the list of recipients. Check the recipients again – do they ALL need to get the email?
- Don’t ‘Reply all’ out of habit – ‘Reply’ is usually sufficient; if you do ‘Reply all’, check the list of recipients first and delete those who don’t need the information
- Delete any unwanted ‘threads’ in the email before replying – only reply to what you’ve been asked; trim out the unnecessary bits of previous conversations
- Don’t send huge attachments – link to the document or folder on the network instead; typically, you can’t attach files to an email that are more than about 5 MB in total
- Use standard English and punctuation; use acronyms sparingly; avoid sarcasm and irony as they don’t translate well in words; avoid emoticons (smileys) and ‘text-speak’; curb your use of exclamation points
- Use standard fonts, font sizes, colours, and sentence case
- Use the CC line for those who need to get a copy of the email, but who aren’t the main recipient; use the BCC line for those whose email addresses you don’t want to disclose (don’t forget – assume that every email you send from the company account is NOT private, whether you use BCC or not); be judicious in who you add to the CC/BCC lists – not everyone has to see everything, and ‘reply all’ threads become very cumbersome
- If you and the recipient are in a long email chain trying to get your message understood, pick up the phone and call them, or meet them face to face
- Set up Inbox folders and learn how to use ‘rules’ to route emails into those folders (Tools > Rules and Alerts)
- How to write an internal email: http://www.worketiquette.co.uk/how-to-write-an-internal-email.html (there’s some good stuff about work etiquette in general at this website: http://www.worketiquette.co.uk/)
- Email etiquette: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/email-etiquette/
- Modern Etiquette: Email etiquette at work and home: http://www.mindfood.com/at-modern-etiquette-email-etiquette-at-work-and-home.seo
- Email etiquette at work: http://ezinearticles.com/?Email-Etiquette-at-Work&id=5042388
- Email Etiquette: 26 Rules to Follow: http://email.about.com/od/emailnetiquette/tp/core_netiquette.htm
- How to Use Proper Email Etiquette at Work: http://www.ehow.com/how_2293051_use-proper-email-etiquette-work.html
- Urban legends and hoaxes (best place to find out if the email you’ve been sent about a credit card scam or similar is legitimate or is a hoax): http://www.snopes.com
[Links last checked February 2013]