While the technology itself is bordering on ancient, email is as popular and effective as ever.
Writing an email that engages readers and prompts them to take action is not an easy feat, however.
Email is a world filled with unwritten rules and potential pitfalls.
Whether you’re an email marketer building a list of hungry prospects, or a freelancer looking to cold email potential clients, you need to adhere to basic email etiquette.
Email Etiquette Rules To Follow
Here’s what you need to know to stay on the good side of whoever you’re emailing.
1. Don’t make it too long
Most of us have come across a person who seems to write a short novel in each email they send out.
These emails require you to take a big chunk out of your today to read and reply, and while that may be fine for personal email, it’s not a good idea in a business setting.
Imagine getting 4 or 5 of these in a single day, you wouldn’t be able to get anything done!
Admittedly it is sometimes completely necessary and justifiable to write longer emails.
But taking a couple of minutes to “trim the fat” before sending them out is guaranteed to be appreciated by the recipient.
Note that in the case of newsletters the rules are a little bit different.
People are generally more forgiving if those are long because they rarely, if ever, reply to them.
It’s one-way communication for the most part.
2. Include a greeting and closing
It’s good to make a habit of including a courteous greeting and closing in each email you send.
It doesn’t have to be very formal, even a simple combo of “Hi <name>!” and “Regards” will do just fine in most situations.
Replace the ending with “Thank you” or similar if appropriate.
It’s usually best to avoid being overly formal as it tends to look odd and out of place nine times out of ten.
There are exceptions though, of course, and if you know you’re in a business where it’s expected to keep a high level of formality you should just stick to that.
3. Use a minimum of HTML formatting
Most email clients are capable of reading and sending an email with HTML formatting…
But this doesn’t mean you should go overboard with it.
The reason is that except for the most basic formatting tags (bold, italics and so on), email clients tend to parse and display such emails differently.
Point is you cannot be sure that the recipient sees the email as you had intended.
If you’re unlucky it may just show as an unreadable mess. It can even get caught in some spam filters.
Another reason is that many people read their email on smartphones these days, and advanced formatting can look even worse on those.
Bottom line, if it’s not a newsletter you’re sending out (and even those should ideally be light on HTML), stick to only basic formatting.
4. Compress and limit attachments
The rule here is simple: make them as small as possible.
Big attachments aren’t just a hassle for the recipient who has to wait for the download, there is also a risk that they don’t get delivered at all.
Every email provider has their own limits, but as a rule, it’s best to try to keep attachments below 5 MB.
Larger than that and you’re better off hosting them on a service like Dropbox and just sending the link instead.
If you’re sending many files or files that compress well like text documents, consider “zipping” them to both make the attachment easier to handle (one file instead of many) and take up less space.
5. Make sure your name is in the ‘From:’ field
Nothing looks more unprofessional than an incorrectly configured ‘From:’ field.
It can even deter people from opening your emails as they are sure to look suspicious and scammy when there’s no real name attached to them.
If you’re unsure of whether your email client is set up correctly in this regard, test it out.
Simply take a couple of minutes to send an email to yourself or a colleague to make sure everything is working properly.
Don’t forget to also check so it works on your phone if you sometimes use that to send out emails (this is a common mistake to not check).
6. Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation
It should go without saying that you need to take care so your emails are written with proper grammar and spelling.
Most email clients have a spellchecker built-in so make sure you’re using it.
Make it a habit to always read over your emails from start to finish before sending them out and you’re sure to catch most mistakes.
Use paragraphs to split up sections if you’re writing long emails (hopefully not too long!) and always use proper capitalization and punctuation.
Never use smileys or emoticons unless you’re absolutely sure the recipient will not see them as unprofessional.
7. Don’t go overboard with your signature
The general advice when it comes to signatures is simple: Don’t go overboard with it!
2-3 lines should be plenty to include the most important information, like your name, position and contact details.
Don’t include images, lengthy text or heavy formatting unless it’s absolutely necessary.