Friday, July 19, 2024

Essential Email Etiquette: Make The Best Impression

A businessman checking his emails via a smartphone.

When exchanging business emails, someone who always responds quickly and in an easy-to-understand manner creates a sense of trust and creates a good impression. Many employees and businesspeople want to be able to process email replies swiftly but have difficulties with minor details, such as the subject line or keeping a professional tone.

With the average employee spending almost 30% of their time managing their email inbox, it’s no surprise why it’s important to follow email etiquette rules.

It also takes careful thought to craft an email that holds negative news, apologies, or refusals. 

In this article, we will cover business email etiquette comprehensively and provide example sentences that you can use as a template.

Before You Read Our Email Etiquette Tips, Do You Have:

  • A professional email address

  • An email signature with your job title, free from spelling errors

  • Relevant information, including your phone number, address & professional social media links

Four Email Etiquette Rules: Nailing The Basics

A business woman typing on her laptop to compose an email.

Business communication has some essentials that apply to every email you compose.

Reply Withing 24 Hours

Unless it’s spam content, it’s appropriate email etiquette to respond within 24 hours of receiving it. Getting back to someone by the next day at the latest shows politeness and saves the sender from having to follow up multiple times.

Naturally, you might not have the answer to someone’s question in an email, but there are still methods to go around this.

Something that requires consideration can be responded with:

“Please allow me two days to consider XYZ . . .”

This ensures you’re following basic email etiquette rules and informs the sender you have acknowledged their correspondence. If you received a further reply to your reply, there’s no need to respond unless one is requested.

Keep it simple and polite! Never forget your pleases and thank yous; always double check your responses before sending them off.

Don’t Change Subject Lines

You will notice your response to an email will be titled something similar to “Re: Subject.” To make it easier for the recipient to understand, and if you’ve divided the messages into folders by title, always reply without changing the subject line.

Regardless of the email having a good subject line, the process of correspondence can come with confusion and complications when we change the original subject line.

Delete Excessive “Re:”

If your conversation continues with replies, the number of “Re:” may increase, leaving you with a mess that looks like “Re: Re: Re: Subject.” Keep the email chain clean and delete the excessive ones.

Keep professional correspondence concise is key, and small habits like incorporating too many exclamation points should be avoided.

Stay Efficient During Business Hours

It’s called business hours for a reason.

The average professional receives around 74 emails per day, let’s stay efficient.

Unspoken email etiquette rules include replying to the recipient’s email within business hours whenever possible. But the same is true for when you need to send an email outside of standard operation hours.

If reaching out during odd hours, include a sentence at the beginning of the messages, such as “Sorry for reaching out past business hours. . .”

What Emails You Don’t Need to Respond to

An office worker looking at their smartphone with email notifications.

Thankfully, business communication is logical enough that it’s not necessary to respond to every email.

Emails Received as “Cc”

Generally, there is no need to reply to emails that are in your inbox as “Cc.” But if the email directs a question which requires a response from you, such as adjusting schedules or needing your advice, then you must respond.

Either click ‘reply’ if the response involves one individual or ‘reply all’ if everyone in the email chain needs to see the message.

When it Says ‘No Reply Required”

Sometimes professional emails will mention that no reply is required.

This is because the email might be a simple notification, a receipt or something of a similar nature. There is no need to respond in this case. However, if it’s your boss or business partner, it can be polite to answer.

Automatic Replies and Sales Pitches

This is a given, but automatic emails can be ignored, and promotional emails from companies can be treated the same way. You would only consider replying to a sales pitch if it piques your interest and you need to enquire to learn further details.

Examples of How to Write Various Reply Emails

How do you respond to complaints, rejection, and even a thank you email? Every subject has different nuances of email etiquette rules, but the common points in all examples include:

  • Concise

  • Easy to understand

  • Include words that express respect

Replying to Express Gratitude

If you receive an email that conveys important details for a project or similar, always respond as soon as possible after checking the content thoroughly. Double-check that you have read the details correctly, and look for any file attachments that you might miss.

Look at the example below.

Subject line: Notice of Re: XX project meeting schedules

Hello X,

Thank you for your email and for providing these details.

I understand the schedule for the project meeting.

I will visit your company on the 4th of March, 2024.

Thank you for informing us early.

Sign off.

In this example, we repeat any important information, such as the date and location, in the reply email, even if it’s repetitive. This is effective in preventing mistakes, as the original reader has an opportunity to pick up on them.

Replying for Schedule Adjustment

Respecting others’ time is paramount in business, and any schedule adjustments need to be carried out with a professional tone. Keep the subject line direct so it grabs the reader’s attention right away.

Subject line: Adjustment for meeting/project/etc.

Hello X,

I’m writing to request a change to our currently scheduled meeting on October 10th at 10:30 AM. Unfortunately, an unforeseen circumstance has arisen, and I’m no longer available at that time.

Could we reschedule for X or X? If those times don’t work, please let me know your availability, and I’ll do my best to accommodate your schedule.

I apologise for any inconvenience. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding.

Sign off.

Always inform those involved of a schedule change sooner rather than later.

Replying to Decline a Proposal

Refusing a proposal requires careful language, delicately balancing the need for clarity with the importance of avoiding ambiguity. Delivering bad news is never easy, but we recommend being firm in your decision while expressing your appreciation for the time and effort invested in the proposal.

It’s a fine balance, and assuming this is their first time reaching out, then emails can be framed around the below as a template.

Subject line: Proposal for X

Hello X,

Thank you for taking the time to submit your comprehensive proposal for X.

We have carefully reviewed your proposal, and after careful consideration, we have decided to move forward in a different direction.

We appreciate your effort in outlining your approach and will be happy to consider your expertise for future projects.

Sign off.

Keep your decision professional and respectful yet firm.

Email Tips to Improve Productivity

Employees often worry that replying to emails takes up too much time.

Conversely, some end up lost because they over-check for rudeness, typos, and clarity, which reduces their time to focus on their core work. Replying to business emails should become second nature, but we have compiled some more tips to streamline your email handling process.

Using Folders

It’s inefficient to check your inbox, which is filled with low-priority emails, such as newsletters and advertisements that are hidden amongst your work emails. Make full use of your mailer’s “folder sorting” feature, which should enable you to sort emails by sender or title.

Create Templates and Fixed Phrases

Emails are a key part of your day, but they shouldn’t take long.

Craft some emails that contain a template for replying to certain messages and fixed phrases to maximise your time. Don’t forget to add your own words to the email when responding, or else you’ll sound like a robot.

Replying Immediately

Some people read the emails they receive in order and then go back to the beginning and compose a reply email when they are finished, but this method is inefficient as it means reading the email twice. By reading each email one by one and replying as needed, you can reduce your total work time.

Prioritise Your Replies

Emails with a high-priority label should be answered immediately when compared to others. Create a system of replying to emails based on their importance.

Think of it as balancing a matrix and creating categories of important vs unimportant.

You can also consider utilising the twominute rule, where if an email can be replied to within two minutes, then do it immediately. Avoid letting small tasks build up!

Use a PC Instead of a Smartphone

You can certainly reply to emails from your smartphone or tablet during downtime. However, for a more streamlined workflow, save email responses for times when you’re working on your PC unless it’s an urgent matter or you don’t have immediate access to a computer.

Set a Fixed Time

Set a fixed time during the day to check your email, such as 30 minutes each in the morning and evening, and get into the habit of finishing your work on time.

Resist the urge to check your email outside of these designated times to prevent distraction and stay focused on the task at hand. Learning how to manage time management in the office is a key part in remaining productive.

Business Email Etiquette Overview

In today’s fast-paced digital world, mastering email etiquette is crucial for maintaining professionalism and building strong relationships.

  1. Reply as quickly as possible, within 24 hours at the latest

  2. Accurately communicate important requirements

  3. Write with manners and in a way that shows respect for the other person.

By replying promptly (ideally within 24 hours), accurately conveying important requirements, and always employing respectful language, you demonstrate excellent email etiquette.

These simple practices enhance communication clarity and efficiency and demonstrate your commitment to fostering respectful connections within your work environment.

Remember, email etiquette is not just about rules; it’s about treating others with the consideration and attention they deserve. 

Need more communication tips? Learn about communication tips for remote teams.

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Albert Feynman

Albert Feynman

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