Rules of Email Etiquette You Might Be Breaking

email etiquette
source: Aaron Escobar (the spaniard)
Email continues to increase as a mode of communication, with a 2011 report by The Radicati Group estimating that there were more than 3.1 billion email accounts worldwide!

We’ve all heard the stories of the tone of an email being misinterpreted or misunderstood along with the warnings that you shouldn’t send an email when you’re angry, intoxicated or otherwise impaired. Like any communication tool, email offers a lot of opportunities — and a lot of consequences if not used properly!

This is especially true in business and professional communication, but what about every day emails? What email etiquette rules should everybody follow?

Here are my top five email rules that you might be breaking:

ALL CAPS

Turning your Caps Lock on while writing an email (or anywhere, really) is just not a good idea. Not only does it come across as “shouting”, but it’s also genuinely hard to read. If you prefer not to mess with capitalization, try all lowercase instead, which is a growing style among minimalist email users.

I will make one exception to this rule. Several years ago I was part of an active homeschooling forum, and one of the members regularly put her titles in ALL CAPS. This was definitely a style thing (and an easy way to see which posts were hers). I think it’s okay to do something like that if you want to stand out, but be prepared for a backlash from people who still don’t like it. And be consistent or else it loses its appeal!

Readability

Another important aspect of sending emails is making sure your messages are easy to understand and read. Use proper punctuation and short paragraphs so that your user doesn’t have to read your message several times just to get it. I’m not saying you need to check your email against formal grammar rules, but I’ve received more than one email that contained a full paragraph without a single punctuation mark or capital letter, and it’s incredibly hard to make sense of those mega run-on sentences!

Sending Group Emails

We all have situations where we need to send group emails. Except in cases where your recipients are a close-knit group, you should always use the BCC field to hide the email addresses you’re sending the email to. The intent isn’t to keep the recipient list a secret (at least not in most cases), but rather to protect the privacy of those who don’t want their email address shared.

Responding to Group Emails

Similarly, when responding to group emails that use the CC field, think twice about who you send your reply to. If a group email is sent from an event organizer asking you to confirm participation, chances are that all 28 people on the email list don’t need to receive your response (plus the responses of the other 27 people). Again, this may be different if you’re emailing with a close-knit group of friends, but the important takeaway is to think twice before automatically using Reply All in your response!

Forwards

You had to know this was coming, right? There are three types of forwards: junk/spam emails, those that contain false information and interesting/cute emails.

  • Junk/spam emails always say “Forward this or else…” or “If you really love Jesus…” They might include a picture or poem, but you probably can’t make out what it really says because it’s been forwarded so many times that the alignment and spacing are off.
  • Emails that contain false information generally capitalize on a scare factor or lofty promise, such as “If you eat too many bananas, you’ll grow a tail” or “Forward this email and Microsoft will send you $1,000!”
  • And interesting/cute emails include pictures of babies/animals, fun facts or information that is genuinely helpful.

The most important rules to keep in mind for forwards are:

  • Never, ever forward them to everyone in your address book.
  • Always check the claims of an email at Snopes.com.
  • Never, ever forward junk/spam or false information.
  • If you can’t resist forwarding something, you should only send it with a personal note and only if you would consider forwarding it to each and every person individually.

Finally, if someone asks you to take them off your forward list, please don’t be offended! In all likelihood, it wasn’t easy for them to ask you because they don’t want to offend you, but for people who use email professionally, adding a few extra forwards to their inbox can be very stressful!

Those are my top five rules of email etiquette. What would you add to the list?

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