It’s hard to believe email dates back more than 50 years.
For something that’s been around as long as email, the fact that we don’t have universal guidelines for using it is amazing. And that would be okay, except we get a lot of email. It’s estimated last year we sent close to 270 billion emails.
It only seems logical that to be better email users we should have a few ground rules. While it would be nice to have a global policy in place that everyone agreed to, sometimes the best way to create guidelines is by just doing them. You know, like the one that says don’t write in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
If you adopt good practices in sending email, people will notice, and they’ll start doing it too. Here are five email etiquette rules everyone should incorporate in their communications.
1. Respond to the right people. When you send an email, it’s important to know who you want to respond to and who you simply want to keep informed. That decides who should be listed in the TO line and who should be in the CC line. TO is for those individuals who should reply, and CC is for those who should just be kept in the loop.
2. Update the subject line. When you change the subject, change the subject line. This allows the reader to prioritize your message and hopefully respond in a timely fashion. If someone adds an urgent message under the subject line “Birthday Cake in the Breakroom,” there’s a good chance the recipient won’t see it.
3. Use grammar and spell checks. Most email platforms have this built in, so it’s simply a matter of turning it on. Let’s face it, there are people who judge our grammar so take an extra moment to check it. It doesn’t guarantee mistakes won’t be made, but it can drastically reduce them. A well-written email, free of typos and grammatical errors, will be better received.
4. Make it readable. Reading on a computer screen is different from reading on paper. When you can, use bulleted or numbered lists to get your point across clearly. It helps to make messages easier to consume. And isn’t that the point of email in the first place? To quickly and efficiently send a message?
5. Have an auto signature. When we communicate with others, follow-up is often necessary. Make it easy for others to contact you by putting your contact information in the closing of your email. Include basic information such as phone number and primary email. Physical mailing addresses are optional and can be provided if requested.
Email isn’t going away anytime soon, so we must learn how to use it effectively. We also can’t expect others to send great emails if we’re not doing that ourselves. By following these five simple rules, we can improve the quality of our communications and set the example for others to do the same.