Business Email Etiquette

In your personal email, you can say anything to anyone. However, at work, follow the rules of business email etiquette. Electronic mail is so easy to write and send, it is easy to forget ourselves and breach these unwritten rules.

First, keep it professional.

Never forget that your work email is not yours. It belongs to the company. So whatever you put in a message at work can come back to haunt you.

With that in mind, keep them professional. You don't have to be stiff and impersonal, but stay away from personal matters or gossip.

Second, others will read what you've written.

Beyond the original recipient of your message, odds are that others will read it. For instance, in a law firm case-related emails are printed and filed with the correspondence. This means that lawyers, judges and other legal staff read them. If you stay professional in your tone and content, this isn't a problem.

Third, avoid "colorful" language.

It is easiest to write how we speak. But do not use curse words, sexist language or off-color content when writing business email. This includes forwarded messages that go around the office.

If the message has inappropriate content, it's okay to break the chain. Better that than being disciplined for sending email that is against company policy.

Fourth, keep personal issues out of company emails.

If you are having marital trouble and want to confide in a co-worker, do it over lunch. Or use your personal email from home. Keep it out of the workplace.

While some companies are more liberal with their email policies than others, if you don't take advantage, you won't overstep the bounds of business email etiquette.

Fifth, keep your emails to the point.

Reading long passages on a screen is hard on the eyes. Keep your emails to the point so that others can read them quickly and easily. This is as much an act of courtesy as it is policy, and it makes sure your messages get read.

Sixth, avoid smilies and chatspeak.

smiliesThis goes back to being professional. Do not use smilies or chatspeak in work correspondence. You wouldn't include them in a business letter, would you? Then don't do it electronically.

If you follow only one of these rules, make it the first one. It covers the others by default. Remember, work email is not private and it's not yours. It, including the individual messages you write, belongs to your employer.

There is no privacy with anything you write and send on the job. Keep your personal life personal by leaving it at home or at least, off of your work computer. You'll be glad you did.

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