Your generation has grown up knowing how to use computers. Email and text messages are the most common form of communication for you and likely most of your peers. Written electronic correspondence is convenient, unobtrusive, and so frequently used that the overarching tone of most messages is quite informal and conversational. This is fine if you are communicating with friends, but as you enter the professional world, there will be different expectations of formality that you would do well to apply to your email correspondence. Read on for more advice on email etiquette for young professionals.
– Be punctual. The best way to show a person that you respect their time is to answer their messages promptly. All of your friends deserve the courtesy of having their messages answered quickly, and business contacts, by nature, demand it.
– Address all of the questions asked in your reply. Be sure that your response is thorough and relevant.
– Check your spelling and grammar. Most email programs have a spell checker, so this should be a no-brainer. Grammar can be a bit trickier. Consult an online grammar guide if you have questions about when to use things like “their” and “they’re” or “to” and “too”.
– Use proper punctuation. I tend to get carried away when typing emails to my close friends, adding extra exclamation marks and throwing in phrases in ALL CAPS to get my point across. If you are emailing a close friend, over-punctuate to your heart’s content, but if you are trying to make a good impression on a potential employer or just someone you haven’t met before, stick to the proper punctuation and capitalization.
– Don’t create or forward chain letters. I remember when I got my first email account in middle school, half of the emails I received were from friends who forwarded emails telling me that if I sent the message on to twenty people my crush would finally ask me out and if I didn’t, I’d have bad luck for a year. I don’t know if we grew out of those or if they fell out of fashion, but I’m glad I don’t get them anymore. Don’t irritate your friends with chain mail.
– Be careful about using “reply to all”, Bcc and Cc. Only use “reply to all” if you are sure that everyone on the recipient list needs to hear what you have to say. Bcc (blind carbon copy) should be used when you have a group that needs to hear the same message, but the recipients may not know each other and might not be comfortable sharing their email information with a list of random people. Cc (carbon copy) is best employed when you are emailing a group that needs to hear the same message and they are all familiar with each other, that way they know who else is aware of the information in your email.
– Don’t over-style your emails – emoticons, unicorn pictures, purple twinkle fonts, and animation are tolerable in messages between twelve year old girls, but they are extremely unprofessional and sometimes hard to read. Keep your messages clean and simple unless, of course, you are a twelve year old girl – or would like to be compared to one.
– Make your email subjects relevant. Good titles help recipients keep messages organized and will help you keep your messages from being filtered out by spam blockers. If you don’t know the person to whom you are writing, be especially careful in titling your email, as it can determine whether or not your email is even opened.
– Address people you don’t know by their titles and surnames until they imply that you can call them something else. Most people are okay with being called by their first names, but until they invite you to do so, stick to “Mr.”, “Ms.”, and “Dr.” to avoid offending.
– Make sure your attachments are relevant to your message. If you need to send a large attachment, ask the recipient for permission before you send it. Large attachments can clog inboxes and frequently get filtered by spam blockers. If your recipient knows to look for it, they can make the necessary preparations to make sure that it is properly received.
– Make sure your email address is professional. Sending messages from “surferdood95” or “ilovelamp” is fine if you are writing to a friend, but potential employers will probably not be impressed with your creativity in this regard. Luckily, if you already have an established account with a silly name, you can usually add email addresses to the same account; just make sure you select the appropriate return address for each email you send. Professional email addresses should be simple variations of your name like “jonsmith” or “jsmith” or “jon.smith”. You can add numbers if you need them to differentiate, but keep it as simple as possible.
– Don’t send forwards without a personal message describing why you are passing it on. Sending forwards, even to people who you know will be interested, without a word or two from you is impersonal and a bit rude. Adding a sentence or two telling them what is in it and why you sent it will also make them want to read it before they delete it.
– It’s not totally necessary, but you will avoid some potentially embarrassing emails if you fill in your “to” line when you are completely finished with your email. It’s not uncommon for people to accidentally hit the “send” button before they are finished with their message and end up having to send a second email explaining their mistake.