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Understanding and Applying Email Etiquette

When I first heard the expression “email etiquette,” it seemed like common sense. I had accepted that text could not adequately convey tone; there would always be times when it would be misinterpreted, and there was nothing I could do to influence or change that. However, there are guidelines to consider when composing emails that can assist with maintaining a professional, courteous tone that will be appreciated by colleagues, bosses and potential employers alike.


Grab their attention.

This begins with a good subject line. Think about to whom you’re writing and choose something appropriate. Sometimes, you might need to get creative to capture someone’s interest, as PRSSA guest speaker Matt Sigur emphasized.


Be wise with your words.

Do not, under any circumstances, send emails containing confidential information. In today’s world of hacking and computer viruses, it’s best to deal with that information face-to-face.


Be concise.

The purpose of your email should be clear and the content easily digestible. Use short sentences and bullets to help with this.


Have a clear beginning and end.

Begin with a salutation and end with a closing. Even if you have a default signature block concluding the email, you need to precede it with a closing and your name.


Don’t get fancy.

Use a signature block. Short, simple, plain text is best.


Human voice doesn’t always translate via text.

Tone is important. Make an effort to soften your language with courtesies: “Please do this, thank you,” instead of “Do this.” Humor can be an asset to creating a more relaxed tone, but be cautious not to overdo it. Be considerate of your recipients and what they might perceive as offensive.


Watch for typos.

Do not send out an email without proofreading it first. Get someone else to proofread it: a colleague, several colleagues, your mom, your friend, your dog, et al. The more important the email, the more thorough proofreading it should undergo.


Consider whom you are sending it to.

Do not hit “Reply all” unless you feel it’s necessary. For original messages, you should to add the recipient(s) last, in case of accidental sending. It’s happened to all of us. This step can prevent it from happening again.


These steps are all you need to succeed in writing business emails. Make use of them, don’t forget to proofread, and they will help you achieve success in cultivating your professional personal brand online.

Chelsea Rainwater is a proud member of PRSSA’s Professional Development Committee and TEDxLSU’s PR/Outreach Team. She is a musician and a mommy.

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