Company Email Etiquette – the Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Communication at Work
Corporate email continues to rule the world of business communication. According to Templafy, the average office worker receives 90 and sends out 40 emails per day. With Office 365, company emails are more accessible than ever, from all places and allow your teams to communicate via email from anywhere! We thought it would be a good time to recap some of the Dos and Don’ts of proper company email etiquette. Even with all the communication going on, there are points we often forget to consider.
Do’s and Don’t For Effective Email Communication at Work
Do: Use a clear subject line
Having a clear subject not only offers context and sets expectations as to what the reader can expect, but it also helps ensure your email will get read. With so much spam being received, sending a poorly worded subject line might have your reader assuming it isn’t legitimate. Subject lines like ‘What’s the status’, or ‘How’s this?’ don’t offer great descriptions for the recipient and worse – make an email impossible to find down the road if it’s needed as a reference.
Do not: Use your subject line for the content of the email (or email when chat will do)
We have all been tempted to do this when in a rush – type a question or a complete sentence into an email header then press send, leaving the email blank. Not only can this be confusing for the receiver, but it might also make the recipient think you didn’t want to put in the time to craft a complete email.
‘Did you get the proposal?’ for instance, accomplishes the purpose of the email, but is not effective or considerate.
Using chat and sharing technology like Microsoft Teams is the best option for quick questions, group conversations, and longer threads that should be contained in one place and in one version.
Do: Outline action-items
It is alright to include relevant parties on an email – but only if you outline what is needed from them. Copying three people on an actionable item or a project can be confusing if not everyone is clear on their role – resulting in duplicate work or worse, everyone assuming someone else will handle the request. If you are keeping someone in the loop and no action is required, specify the email is ‘FYI’.
Do not: Copy the whole world
Most people have enough daily emails to go through as is, so try not to copy people unless it’s something that immediately concerns them. You don’t want your co-workers rolling their eyes at a company-wide email that only needed to be sent to 5 people, or one specific team.
Do not: Reply all when it isn’t necessary
Speaking of company-wide emails, avoid hitting “reply all” when only the sender needs a response. Flooding everyone’s inbox is not going to make you an office favourite. This is a very common mistake to make and some things you don’t want everyone to know about.
Do: Flag emails for follow up
If you really can’t reply right away or cannot get to an action that moment, make sure you take advantage of the email flagging feature available in almost every email system so that you can easily find and respond later. Flagging is also a great feature to use to keep track of your to-do list and outstanding items.
Do: Double-check email addresses
Is the email going to the correct John? It’s important to confirm this because you don’t want an email going to the wrong person. You probably won’t get the answer you’re looking for and might even embarrass yourself.
Don’t: Use your full signature for internal emails
Using your full signature is unnecessary and ends up bogging down your email (and your coworkers) with large files. Keep a smaller internal reply email that includes any relevant details and privacy disclaimers that might be relevant.
Do: Consider privacy
Is email the best way to be communicating a private message? Or perhaps the email contains some sensitive information, like a SIN number or banking information? Consider encrypting your message or using a password-protected attachment when necessary.
Don’t: Overuse emojis
There’s nothing wrong with a smiley here or there, as long as you know your audience 😊. In fact, an American study actually found that smileys in work emails can help reduce negative interpretations of a message. Using lots of emojis, however, comes off as unprofessional, and frankly, cringe-worthy.
Do: Take time to format your message
Human eyes like to skim and jump around, which is why emails with paragraphs of text can be difficult to fully absorb.
- Take the time to use bullets for important ideas or lists
- Separate sections with underlines or breaks
- Format your text with weight, colours or highlights to ensure key messages stand out (but be careful not to overuse)
- Be careful which fonts you use, as some don’t translate well in every email client, and others are unprofessional.
Don’t: Send too many emails outside of company hours
Several studies have shown that emailing and checking emails excessively outside of working hours takes a toll on health and productivity, and sets a dangerous standard for others. Some companies block emails from being received off-hours, and some countries, like France, have actual regulations around sending emails when an employee is out of office. Even though you may not expect a reader to act immediately, the perception might be different, especially if it is sent by a manager or senior member of the company. Companies should define policies and expectations for communicating outside of core business hours to ensure employees know when they are and are not expected to be chained to communication.
Don’t: Overuse punctuation & CAPS
Using TOO MUCH punctuation can easily come off the wrong way!!!! For example, using multiple question marks comes off as frustrated: “Where did you save the presentation???” Exclamation marks are also easy to misinterpret, and I recommended trying to use one exclamation mark per email max. ALL CAPS is another issue that will certainly be conveyed as aggression. Simply put, just use punctuation and caps PROPERLY!
Do: Track and tag client or prospect emails
Many CRM and email systems like Dynamics 365, come with connectors that allow you to track email threads. This will not only show your stream of activity, but it will also facilitate communication with clients if another team member has to jump in or get up to speed.
Do: proof & review email before sending
This one speaks for itself. Try to be as professional as possible by making sure your emails have sound grammar and are typo-free. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, there are tons of spellcheck and grammar tools that can come in handy. This is especially important when forwarding emails as the email chain may contain content the recipient shouldn’t see.
Do: Clean it up
This doesn’t refer to language (although that should go without saying). Recipients can find it very annoying when people reply and leave the email messages messy. For example, an e-mail chain that includes excessive carets (>>>), or pages of older emails that aren’t relevant or have 100 colours and fonts. Take a few moments to clean it up before sending it to help your recipients get to the heart of the email.
Do: Train your staff
Companies should outline clear email policies regarding signatures, auto-responders and other logistical guidelines, but should also provide training on effective communication. Simply too much time is at risk of being lost with poorly constructed messages and bad email habits.
Following these guidelines can help you step-up your email etiquette and express yourself in a way that shows your colleagues that you’re organized, effective and considerate.
Ready to reduce your excessive email chains? Explore Microsoft Teams for chat, meetings, sharing & team collaboration.
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