There are some basic ground rules to observe for business e-mail. Above all, be courteous. Remember that the recipient of your message is probably extremely busy. Be respectful, but don’t sound cloying. Put simply, show consideration for the person receiving the message.
If you are writing as a representative of your firm, especially to someone you don’t know, it’s best to err on the side of a more formal tone. This includes spelling out words and limiting your use of abbreviations.
Although you should aim for precision in all your communications, language is often clipped, capitalization is sometimes neglected, and abbreviations may pop up in informal e-mails. For example, many e-mail users dispense with capitalization in e-mails to recipients they know well, since writing in lowercase is much faster and easier—especially when using a handheld device such as a Treo or a BlackBerry.
Internet shorthand—using acronyms or abbreviations for common phrases, such as “TNT” for “till next time,” “TTYL” for “talk to you later,” or “SYS” for “see you soon”—is increasingly finding its way into e-mail business communication. But this abbreviated form of writing may be too casual and even playful for some work environments, so make sure that Internet shorthand is accepted in your organization before you use it.
Use abbreviations or acronyms only in your e-mail exchanges with coworkers or others who understand the lingo, and be sure you know what the terms you use stand for. Some might be a substitute for profane language, and some recipients may find them offensive.
When responding to several people at once, be careful about using the “Reply to all” option and inadvertently passing on other people’s e-mail addresses. Few things do worse damage to your business reputation than being careless with someone’s personal information.
Finally, don’t send a time-sensitive e-mail too late in the business day for people to respond to it, or so that you can put off discussing an important matter. Also, avoid sending messages when you know recipients may not have access to their accounts or will be unable to respond in a timely fashion. Your e-mail is going to be received in a much better spirit if it doesn’t seem strategically timed to the person’s disadvantage.
Dos and Don’ts during writing Business Emails:
Set an example for your employees and peers by practicing good e-mail etiquette (or “netiquette”).
- Do reply promptly to e-mails.
- Do be polite, but not verbose— make your point quickly.
- Don’t respond to chain letters.
- Don’t type in capital letters. It’s the e-mail equivalent of SHOUTING.
- Don’t include too many hyperlinks or elaborate formatting.
- Do be selective when sending replies to all recipients.
- Do use the blind carbon copy (bcc) function for an e-mail with a large distribution list to avoid publishing all the recipients’ addresses.
- Do close with an e-mail signature.
- Do not respond to a recipient in an e-mail on which you’ve been blind-copied.