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Dear Heidi: What are your top etiquette tips to improve work emails?

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

To mind your social P's and Q's in business emails, learn these five email etiquette tips

Excellent question! Every time you commit something to writing, you are exposing yourself and your reputation. Anything you write electronically lives forever, so always be sure your writing reflects well on you and your message.

There are several different types of emails, and you can tailor your writing to suit your style and the situation. Business or professional emails are either formal for your superiors, or informal for your colleagues and peers. In contrast, social emails are usually informal, Be mindful of whom you are emailing and the reason for the mail, and adjust accordingly.

However, when it comes to business emails, follow these five easy tips:

  1. Curb your email habit. Be respectful and email only when necessary, and keep it as short as possible to get your message across. Being judicious with your email authorship will get you noticed — when something from you pops up in an inbox, it will be read promptly. No one has time to read endless emails, especially ones that say the same thing, over and over again, or are gratuitous.

  2. Offer a sneak preview. Use the subject line as the trailer to your email movie. Keep it short, but give someone enough to know what it's about, and grab their interest. Instead of putting "Sales Report from Q1" in the Subject Line, try writing "Record Net Revenue; Q1 Sales Report" and see how fast it gets read. Cherry-pick the good stuff and highlight it briefly in the subject line.

  3. Bob's your uncle. Use a suitable salutation and use names. When you email your boss, begin, "Dear Bob," and then go on to your succinct message in the body. Using "Dear" instead of "Hey!" or “Hi,” expresses your respect for your boss and the organization. Close your emails with the same respect as your opener—"Best regards," "Kind regards," or "Sincerely yours" are expected for a formal business email. Save the abbreviations; "Best," "Ciao," or "Cheers" for an informal email between close colleagues or a social email with friends.

  4. Three's a crowd. Send your email to the proper people instead of to everyone you're dying to show-off those killer sales numbers. No one wants to see their inbox jammed with "peacock emails" —the ones that really don't pertain to you but are the equivalent of someone fanning their feathers for show.

  5. Make it for your eyes only. Who doesn't love a good "Reply to All" email chain? Well, no one — it's annoying even when you should read the email. Before you act on the urge to make sure "All" read your brilliant response, think about who actually should read your reply, and limit it — "all" are silently thanking you.

If you keep these five simple tips in mind when you write your next email at work, you'll soon be talked about in the most glowing terms. You'll get noticed, and maybe Bob really is your uncle.


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