More Business Email Do's and Don'ts

Reply All

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Being selective about who an email is addressed to, and who is copied are important choices. The email writer must be selective about who the email is sent to. There is a difference between sending an email to a person, or a select group of recipients, versus the individuals that are copied. By copying people on an email, the email writer is tacitly stating that this email is for information only and that no action is expected of that person or group of people. Contrarily, when an email is addressed to an individual or a group, the email writer is indicating that some form of action may be required on their part as a result of this communication.

On the receiving side of the email, the same rule of etiquette applies.  That is, the person reading and replying to the email must determine if a Reply (only to the original email writer) or a Reply All (to both the to: and cc: list) is required.  Never should you ever use Reply All unless it is absolutely necessary for every person on both the to: and cc: list to read your reply. Keep in mind that the original email writer copied some individuals as an FYI only. Do these busy business people really need to remain on the distribution list indefinitely and continue to receive tangentially relevant, FYI emails? Practice good email etiquette and resist the temptation to Reply All. Broadcasting has its advantages elsewhere -- it does not belong in action oriented business emails.

Get to the Point

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Every business person is already receiving too many emails.  Too many emails may require the email recipient to quickly scan all emails in an effort to get an idea of what all those Inbox emails are about.  In Outlook, the reading pane makes it very easy to efficiently scan and preview emails this way.

Recipients of an overwhelming amount of emails, many of which may require their own or their team’s action expect to receive a well structured email that provides just enough background, but then quickly gets to the point.

Our average attention span is now 8 seconds, according to studies conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The new human attention span is now 1 second less than that of a goldfish. Blame it on social media and the ability to access any information, anytime from (almost) anywhere and the trend is that our attention span will continue to shrink. Keep this in mind when writing an email that may only ever be read in a preview pane, for no more than 8 seconds.

Include a Call to Action

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Equally as important as having a well structured and on point email is making sure that the recipient of the email knows exactly what is expected of him/her upon reading the email. If an email is for information only, then the subject line needs to reflect this, so that there is no misunderstanding about expectations. On the other hand, if an email recipient is being tasked with an action, it needs to be clearly stated and reasonable, so that the email recipient can act on it. If there is no call to action in a business email, then the reader will be left wondering what to do.  Ensure that this doesn’t happen by always including a call to action and its justification. 

Dot the i’s and Cross the t’s

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Business email demands well crafted content, but equally as important are some housekeeping details. Ensuring the accuracy of the email address is an important component of email housekeeping.

Ensure that you have the correct email addresses for all recepients. If you mis-typed an email address or inadvertently ended the email address with a .net when it was really supposed to be .org or other extension, you are likely to receive an error message stating that some or all of your intended recipients did not have your email delivered to them.  The hack fix at this point, is to check every email address and resend the email to all.  Some may get the email for the first time, while others will have the same email in their Inbox a second time.  This credibility damage can be avoided all together by checking and rechecking the email addresses before attempting to send the email the first time. If you are able to single out where your delivery failed, then send the email to only that person or group of people that did not receive your email with a header explaining what happened.  Avoid sending the same email a second time to all because it will be confusing for them to receive an identical second email, or worse, the identical email with a FW: in front of the title of the email in the subject line.

Want to know more about business email etiquette? Keep reading here.