1) Have a Professional Email Address: If you are sending an email on behalf of your company/organization, you should be using your company/organization email account. Try to avoid sending out professional emails from a personal email account. However, if you are either self-employed, or must use a personal email address for work for some other reason, make sure your “personal” email address should be simple and straightforward: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Check (and Double Check) Your “To” Line: You want to make sure you are addressing the email to the correct person(s), to avoid any confusion and/or embarrassment. This is a common mistake, as many of us have contacts with similar names in our online address book, so it’s easy to accidentally shoot off an email to the wrong person. Furthermore, another big mistake people make is clicking “Reply All” instead of “Reply.” You don’t want to to do this, because at best, you are spamming a big group of people for no reason, and at worst, your email could have included personal information only meant for one individual, which is now public information.
3) Proofread, Proofread, Proofread: While a typo or two might sneak into your emails every now and then, but try to avoid them when possible. When your emails have an excessive amount of typos or grammar mistakes, you risk looking sloppy and unprofessional–which is the last impression you want to give, especially if you are emailing someone you are not familiar with.
4) Avoid “Edgy” Material: It can be tempting to throw in an off-color joke or some edgy humor into a business email, but don’t. Once you hit “send,” it’s best to assume that everything you’ve said in that email could be made public at a moment’s notice. What if someone takes offense to a light-hearted joke and forwards the email to your supervisor? It’s hard to ascertain tone in an email, so it’s better to avoid making comments that could be considered offensive or insulting in emails.
5) Reply Promptly: Make the effort to reply to emails in a timely manner. Even if you cannot give someone the information they need at that moment, take a second to write back to them and let them know that you will respond to their request, inquiry, concern, etc. as soon as you can. Don’t be the person that someone has to send multiple emails to, before they receive any kind of response.
6) Don’t Be Emotional: Try not to send emails in anger (or any other strong emotion). If a situation is starting to frustrate you, take a five minute break – go get a snack, take a walk around the office or do something else to calm down. Even if the person on the other end of the email is getting noticeably angry or upset, you should maintain a professional attitude. Don’t use all caps, don’t use exclamations, and don’t get defensive. Make your points in a calm and collected manner, don’t let them know that they have gotten under your skin.
7) Be Clear in Your Subject Line: Be as detailed as you can in your subject line. People are busy and most of us receive an enormous amount of emails at work. It is hard work sifting through all of those emails – so make it easier for everyone by being as straightforward as possible in the subject line, so that the person doesn’t have to spend time figuring out what you need from them.
8) No “Fun” Fonts, Emoticons, or Slang: This rule is self-explanatory, but try to avoid using “fun” or unique fonts, bright colored text, emotions, or slang in your business emails. Save those for emails or text messages with friends and family. If you need to emphasis or draw attention to a certain point, underline or bold it.
9) No Essays: Avoid writing long-winded emails. Like I mentioned in #7, most of us receive tons of emails at work, so no one wants to spend 20 minutes reading through an essay in an email if they don’t have to. While you want to be polite in your emails (so don’t write “hey, do X for me. thanks.” in an email–that’s rude), you also don’t want to beat around the bush or have long, introductory explanations, unless absolutely necessary.
10) Include a Signature: Lastly, aways include a signature at the end of your emails, so that the recipient is clear on who you are, what your position is, and alternate means of contacting you, should they need to. A signature should include your first and last name, your title or position, the department you work in, your company/organization, your phone number, and your email address. For more tips on how to creative an effective email signature, check out this Smashing Magazine article.