Professional Email Etiquette

Bad email etiquette was MAYBE excusable in the 90s.

Bad email etiquette was MAYBE excusable in the 90s.

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Email subjects! AHH! I hate being constantly bombarded with irrelevant, unsearchable subject terms, or emails that veer off the thread and continue. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to search for emails again or prioritize when the subject has no useful search terms and is instead, something like “favor …” Bah! Also, reply-alls, while you’re at it lol.


Disordered Inbox


Official Etiquette:

Everyone agrees! Use a clear subject line that indicates the content of the message. And use reply all only when everyone needs to receive the response.

Our Take:

Victoria: Okay, so subject lines are super important now because email is so searchable, so they need to be something that you can search easily. Like instead of “Invoice Request” it should be something like “Smith Invoice Request”

Jaya: Right. Though I tend to be more lax about this when it comes to personal emails. If I’m sending a friend a funny link I’m not like “Tumblr Humor Harry Potter Video 2015”

Victoria: Oh yeah, this is definitely more of a business email thing.

Jaya: But with invoicing it’s especially good to use your name, since those can get lost so easily. Something descriptive, but also not putting your entire email in the subject.

Victoria: Oh yeah! As a freelancer, I’m sure you come up against this a lot.

I mean, I think it also depends on the importance of the email- is this something that people are going to have to go back and reference or is it a one off that’s going to be deleted as soon as it is read?

Though i guess for some people, it’s probably more useful to get in the habit of just using good subject lines rather than trying to figure out which emails are important.

Jaya: Definitely. It’s too much hassle to try to scale your email on how important it’ll be to the recipient

So if you do it for everything it’ll be much easier.

Victoria: Yep, and even for yourself a lot of the time! But yeah, I think ultimately you just need to avoid stuff like “favor” or “request” that is suuuuper vague. Just up it to “supply order favor” or “vacation request.”

Jaya: And when it comes to reply all, oh boy. Use bcc when you can, and use reply all sparingly

Victoria: Haha yeah, I mean it also depends on company culture. We actually use reply all a LOT, but its for good reasons. And I use BCC for some very specific things. But if you aren’t specifically told to use reply all or BCC on “these types of specific emails”

then definitely decide whether it needs a reply all or not.

Jaya: Right, if everyone’s input really is needed, use reply all. And only reply with your full, thoughtful response, not a bunch of one word answers.

Victoria: And even within that, i think if you are looping people into something, then they probably only need the major details like- this report went out to this client, and then take it out of reply all to hash out the finicky details.

Jaya: Also this probably goes without saying but triple check who you send things to because too often something meant for a specific person goes to reply all.

Victoria: Hahaha yesssss.

Anything else to add?

Jaya: In general, I think pay attention to crafting an email like it were a letter. A lot of people think that because it can be shot off so quickly and easily that you don’t have to pay attention to wording.

But I’ve had so many confusing email interactions because the other person insists on not using complete sentences.

Victoria: Omg me too.

Jaya: And it just makes it more of a hassle for everyone involved.

Victoria: Especially in a business context, its like, omg you need to be clear and maybe err on the side of being a bit formal.

Especially for emails that aren’t interoffice.

Jaya: Yes! Err on formal is good advice.

Victoria: Like, for the first email, I would always start out with a salutation, whether that is Dear… or Hi… and use your signature.

And then the following ones can devolve into just jumping into the body of the message.

Jaya: Yes, no need for salutations past that. Unless you’re emailing with the Queen.

Victoria: Hahaha, as you do.

Jaya: We’ve all done it.

Victoria: Natch


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