Email Etiquette

A colleague of mine was recently complaining about a group of people who kept “replying all” with individual  thank you emails — too much inbox clutter.  I knew what he meant, because I also have a ‘scrolling’ inbox  — constantly moving with the new emails — some require my input; many do not.  It’s a full time job to keep up with it.  But then, being the contrarian that I am, I started to think about the flip side.  I mean how many times have I sent important information to someone and never gotten a “thank you”.  In that case, the response is more of an acknowledgement.  The recipient could have just as easily said “got it”, which is what I really wanted to know.  This brief interaction led me to think about my other email pet peeves and how we should address them; thus these best practice guidelines for your consideration!

In our world, effective communication is so important, and like everything else, you need to start with your objective.  Are you sending a quick touch-base, do you need something done, or are you catching someone up?  The length of the email should be influenced by your intention, as should the email subject.

These days, attention spans are generally short, so if you need something, say it quickly.  And remember that it’s important to give your message context, because even if you’ve given your topic a lot of thought, your recipient may have many other things on his or her mind.  Also, if the person might need supplemental information, it’s usually best to put it in a clearly labeled attachment, giving your recipient one place to find all the information they might need.

As for email subjects, remember that people ‘read’ email subjects at a glance — so 6 words are generally recommended.  These words should be informative and compelling, so that the reader wants to, or knows to, open the email and read more.  As the email content changes with your replies, it’s helpful to update the end of your email subject to keep your recipient informed at a glance.  And  putting the update at the end is valuable, so if you sort your email subjects, all the related emails are sorted together from the original subject line.  In the same way if the email content changes, like going from a project to an event, then you should change the email topic to reflect the new subject.

In regards to distribution, people in the ‘To’ section are the ones to take action, and people in the ‘Cc’ section are FYIs and not expected to take action.  Also remember that once something is in writing, it’s open for distribution and your email can be forwarded to anyone.

Easy stuff, right?  So go forth and communicate effectively with:

– A compelling email subject
– The appropriate distribution
– Easy to read content

I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time,



“Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”
~  Franklin D. Roosevelt ~

This entry was posted in Communications, Marketing Insight and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *