Today, most business professionals use email extensively to communicate with their teams, colleagues and/or customers. But with the integration of texting and email, proper etiquette is sometimes forgotten. For example, have you ever sent a well written email with proper punctuation and dialogue and received a one word snippet such as:  “yep!” or “sure!” back as a response? This type of reply may be fine for school kids texting their friends in a casual setting, but it is not appropriate for business correspondence.

So, what is the proper etiquette in a business setting? Below are 10 things to keep in mind to project a professional, business image even when using electronic communications.

  1. Always begin your message with a greeting. As with letter writing, you should open an electronic communication with Dear _____, the person’s name or at the very least simple hello. People appreciate decorum.
  2. Use proper punctuation and grammar. While the occasional error may crop into an email, those are usually forgiven, but don’t write an email like you’re 10 years old writing a text message to your best friend.  Not only is it viewed as unprofessional, it demonstrates to the reader that very little care and concern was put into the correspondence, which in turn demonstrates how you ultimately feel about the recipient. And by all means,  don’t use ALL CAPS. All caps is interpreted by most readers as you yelling at them. Not a good move if you are trying to convey collaboration and cooperation.
  3. Know your audience. Remember, when you write any kind of business correspondence, your main objectives is to communicate effectively. Don’t talk over your recipients’ head or use technical terms that some readers might not understand. If the recipients misunderstand or misinterpret your message, you’ve not only failed in your main objective – to effectively communicate, you’ve lost an opportunity that you may never get back.
  4. Avoid jargon and texting abbreviations. In business correspondence it’s not acceptable to use jargon or texting abbreviations such as “lol” or “igbok”. Although acronyms associated with the company culture are acceptable, slang/internet jargon are inappropriate.
  5. Properly close your email. It’s annoying to most readers and demonstrates a lack of professionalism when an email abruptly stops.  Simply closing with “thanks for your time” or “I look forward to your response” makes your email much more personal and inviting.
  6. Use a signature. Using a signature makes your email much more professional and it allows the recipient easy access to your contact information should they want to respond back to you. Most email programs provide the ability to set up an email signature and even business card in the account settings to ensure you have an automatic signature with every email.
  7. Consider if email is really the best form of communication to use. Depending on the message length or content, email may not be as effective as more traditional communication methods such as a telephone call or personal meeting. A phone or face-to-face conversation may be a better choice when there is the potential for reaction or misinterpretation, because there is the immediate opportunity for explanation and discussion. Remember, email is a tool and should be used appropriately to communicate with your audience; and like using a wrench to hammer in a nail, it may get the job done, but may require more time and effort if not used appropriately.
  8. Consider the content before hitting the send button. Don’t mistakenly believe that the recipient will be the only one who reads an email. In today’s business environment many company’s monitor employee email correspondence and inappropriate content could become a major problem. Another consideration is that the recipient may forward it to others or print a hard copy for distribution. Remember, if you wouldn’t share the content with your mother, grandmother, boss, spouse or children, its best not to send it.
  9. Don’t send an email when angry or upset. Remember, email doesn’t include the non-verbal communication cues that face-to-face communication provides. If you have written an email in the heat of the moment, save it for later and re-read it when you’ve calmed down and are thinking more clearly. Once you hit the send button, you can’t get it back and the damage may be done.
  10. K.I.S.S. Keep it short and simple. Email is a powerful and efficient tool, but should be kept short and simple. People do not like reading long arduous emails, so if you have a lot of information to convey, consider putting it in an attachment that can be printed off for reading at a later time.

There is no doubt that email has made our business correspondence quicker and more efficient than ever before. But many people mistake the ease of email correspondence to mean that formality is no longer necessary. Don’t make that mistake, email in a business setting should be written with the same formality as a typed letter. It’s just good business and demonstrates respect to your colleagues and customers.

There are lots of websites and blogs offering email etiquette advice to help you keep your communications effective and impressive – check these out for additional advice to improve your business communications.