Having been mentored by people who spent the majority of their working life putting pen to paper, I was taught from the start of my career that how you write a business email is very important. In other words, I was taught e-mail etiquette.

Between client and suppliers email etiquette it basically means courtesy, manners and customer service - right? It sounds pretty simple to execute, so I wonder, why do so many people seem to get it wrong?

I really didn’t want this blog post to turn into a rant, but I can feel it going in that direction! I know we all receive endless e-mails but the difference between a good email and a bad one can have a huge impact on peoples’ moods, desire to complete a task on your behalf and the receiver’s general perception towards you, and your organisation. I always try to follow some simple guidelines when writing an e-mail and I thought I would share them with you to see if you think I am right to get on my high horse about email etiquette!

Tip 1 - Use the right name

At the start of any email I always use a person’s name; ‘Hi Rachel’ for example. I use the correct spelling and I don’t simply write their initial. I get called ‘R’ a lot. This winds me up almost as much as the excessive use of acronyms; WRT (with regard to) OTOH (on the other hand) Please stop being so lazy and write a sentence!

Tip 2 - Start with a positive

I don’t go straight into the body of an email. I always start with a positive; ‘I hope you’re having a good day’, ‘thank you for the below email’, ‘I hope you had a good weekend.’ Etc… I know this might take a couple of extra seconds and seem a bit false, but over time I have found being personable and asking questions really helps to build a good relationship with people you are working with.

 (Crystal Clear?)

Tip 3 - Keep it simple

I seem to waste a considerable amount of time deciphering emails. Countless times I’ve been sent emails that consist of this: ‘Can you help with the below query.’  ‘Below’ is a mile long email trail that includes 10 or more different opinions, further questions, forwards, etc… and I have to read the whole thing just to figure out what the bloody query is! These are obviously not the best e-mails to receive, and if I ever have to send something complex in an e-mail to someone ,I have found it is always better received when you include the key points from the “below” e-mails in your e-mail and also give them a call to let them know it is coming! That way the complex information below only needs to be viewed as a reference, and they don’t have to decipher a load of emails to get their head around the topic.

Tip 4 - End on a positive

I always like to end an email with a positive; ‘If you have any queries, please do contact me’, and I always include an email signature which includes my contact details – including my telephone number as I realise that some people do prefer to carry out business over the phone.

Tip 5 - Include your contact details

Another pet hate of mine is spending what feels like a lifetime searching for peoples’ contact details. I’m not talking about email addresses, I’m talking about contact telephone numbers – for those of us who don’t want to hide behind the desktop and want a conventional conversation on the phone.

I spend a lot of my time working with Corporate Communications Teams and nothing frustrates me more than having to waste time searching for a person’s telephone number – especially when their job title implies that their role is to communicate!

I know in this age of mass communication it’s easy to fall into the trap of always appearing off-line, sending emails straight to a junk file and with-holding telephone details, but if your job is to communicate then I think that the channels of communication should be left wide open!

So while I spend around 20 hours a week writing emails, I must have wasted several months of my life so far deciphering badly written emails and searching for telephone numbers!

Right, that is the rant over and I feel much better now :)

Please feel free to contact me or add to this with your own e-mail advice and tips in the comments below - it would be great to hear from you.

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Rachel Willis