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E-mail Etiquette Practices for Job Seekers and Professionals

E-mails are the official channel for communication between job seekers and employers before recruitment and even after employment. An e-mail is also the formal communication channel between companies and prospective clients. In summary, e-mails are a necessity in the workplace, so proper e-mail etiquette should be learned and practiced for effective communication by jobseekers and professionals alike.

Email etiquette refers to rules and principles that guide our behavior when sending and receiving e-mails. Practicing good e-mail etiquette will enable you to establish professionalism, build stronger networks and leave a good impression of your company on your client’s mind.

These practices include:

1. Start with a Clear Subject Line

Like the headline of articles, the subject line of your email is what determines if the receiver will be interested to read it or not. An ambiguous subject will get your email lost in the sea of unopened inbox mails. An email without a subject line, on the other hand, will be sent straight to spam. Use words that give the recipient an idea of what the mail entails in the subject title. Keep the heading short, sweet, and straight to the point. Even as just a reply to an earlier received one, never send an email to a client or employer without drafting a subject line.

2. Greet Appropriately

The appropriate way to greet in an email depends on your relationship with the recipient, and the purpose of the mail. However, even if you are not sure how to greet, never write the body of your mail without including a greeting at the top.

 A semi-formal greeting like ”Hello {insert name of recipient}” will do just fine for an email that is sent in response to an inquiry, or is sent as an inquiry. However, if your mail is a proposal letter or an offer of employment or addressed to a client, you should use the more formal approach of “Dear Mr/Miss/Mrs {insert name}”.

For a mail that is simply addressed to a team member, family, friend, colleague, or members of a social group like a book club, you can be less formal. Seasonal greetings like “Good morning” (or whatever time of the day it is), and “compliments of the season” will do just fine in this case.

Remember to insert the name of the recipient after whatever greeting you choose to use.

Greetings like “hey” or “hi there” may be appropriate for newsletters, but not for work-related emails and certainly not for cold emails.

3. Always Introduce Yourself

Right after your greeting, you should write a brief introduction in one or two sentences if you are talking to the recipient for the first time. Assuming you are writing the mail in response to a mail you have previously received, it helps to refer to the last mail, to joggle their memory. Yes, your name is a part of your email address, but what happens if the receiver doesn’t remember your name from your last correspondence? Save yourself the stress and anxiety of waiting for a follow-up mail that may not arrive because he doesn’t remember you, and give a quick recap of your last talk before getting into the current gist.

4. Go Straight to the Point

After your introduction, launch directly into your purpose for writing the mail. Keep the mail short and avoid using expressions that may come across as ambiguous. Stay away from phrases that are too wordy also. Lengthy emails tend to bore the reader and inspire him to skip to the end. In the process of briefly skimming through, he might miss your point and the purpose of the mail would be defeated. Prevent this by keeping your mail short and straight to the point. Use bullet points to emphasize key areas if your purpose cannot be presented in a concise format.

5. Don’t Joke Around

Sarcastic expressions and punchlines intended to spice up your mail with a bit of humor could be easily misunderstood. This is why humor and sarcasm are discouraged when writing a mail. The risk of being misunderstood and having your joke pass by as unappreciated aside, you could jeopardize your chances of receiving positive feedback. What you consider a “harmless joke” might be offensive to the recipient, and since you are not present when he reads your mail to explain yourself, he might get turned off from entertaining any future correspondence from you. Introducing humor in a physical conversation can help diffuse tension, but it can be dangerous when done in an e-mail, refrain from it.

6. Structure the body of the E-mail Properly

The ideal format for a formal e-mail is a subject line, salutation/greeting, body of the mail, sign-off, and signature (where possible). Each of these parts should come one after the other. The body of the mail should not be longer than three paragraphs. Start each paragraph with the most important point in the section. Make sure to leave one line of space between paragraphs so that your mail looks neater and is easily comprehendible at a glance. Punctuate your paragraphs properly, and don’t forget to start the first word of every sentence with a capital letter. Use upper case letters for proper nouns such as the recipient’s name and name of the company too.

7. Refrain from bringing up Controversial Topics and Confidential Stories.

 An email is not the right means of communication to share confidential stories or discuss controversial topics. This is because emails are not confidential, a mistake CC, forward, or reply all can leak your sensitive information to the wrong ears, even if the recipient is a close correspondent that you trust. Of course, if you are reaching out to the recipient for the first time, it is a given that the person doesn’t want to know about your life history or your personal opinions about the trending topics in politics. When you write a mail, focus on pitching your idea to the recipient only. It is bad e-mail etiquette to discuss controversial topics or share anything confidential.

8. Stay Away from Overly Dramatic Fonts

The key to effective communication by e-mail is using a neat font. Stay clear of the overdramatic fonts with sweeps and flourishes. If you are writing your e-mail as a reply, use the font employed in the mail you received. Black is the only accepted color for your e-mail font, and the letters should be 12-point (for longer mail) and 10-point (for shorter mail).

Some acceptable fonts that align with good e-mail etiquette are:

  • Times New Roman Version
  • Courier
  • Calibri

9. Make Sure to BCC as Appropriate

BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. This feature allows you to conceal the identity of one recipient from the rest when you send an email to multiple people. It comes in handy when you send the same mail to several different people who do not know one another. However, it is bad email etiquette when you use the blind carbon copy for deception. Only use BCC when necessary and appropriate.

10. Don’t be in a Hurry to click Forward on Emails

Be careful when forwarding mail. This particular email etiquette practice is important for information security. Only forward an email that you have received, if necessary or you were directed to. Make sure to edit anything unnecessary out of the email like the forwarded arrows, other email addresses, and so on.

Pro Tips to Maintain Good Email Etiquette

  • Always double-check your spellings when writing the recipient’s name and title. Don’t use a short form of the name unless you are sure that is what he prefers to answer instead.
  • Proofread your email twice before hitting the send icon. The first time is to check for any spelling and grammar errors, and the second time to check for anything you missed the first time.
  • Never attach a large file to a mail, include a link to it instead. Where necessary to have the file attached, be sure to compress it as much as possible.
  • Respond to your e-mails as soon as you get them. E-mail etiquette experts recommend giving a reply within 24 hours and including an apology if the mail goes unread past 48 hours.
  • Set an instant reply that notifies the mail sender that you are away from work when you have to be.
  • This should go without saying, but just for emphasis; don’t include emojis in your work-related e-mails.
  • Use hyperlinks instead if you have to include a link to an attachment but the URL is lengthy.
  • Use exclamation and question marks sparingly.
  • Maintain a conversational tone throughout the e-mail. Choose your words carefully and always consider how the recipient might interpret them.
  • Never type in all caps it gives the impression that you’re shouting. Highlight the phrase you would like to emphasize in bold letters instead.
  • Don’t highlight too many phrases in bold, in your e-mail.
  • Always close your e-mail with a professional sign-off like “warm regards”, “best wishes”, and so on.

I hope you find this article helpful in improving your e-mail etiquette and official communication with clients.

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