The Mail Order

Did you know that while writing an email to many people within the workplace, the addresses have to be in the hierarchical order? Have you been at the receiving end of the unforgiving ‘Reply All’ tab? Or been horrified to see the unfortunate typo for luck? If you have checked in yes to at least one of the questions you need to brush up on your email etiquette.

Stick to the Point
First up, do not make an email longer than it needs to be. Reading an email is harder than reading printed communications and a long email can put people off. That’s why the structure and layout is very important. Use short paragraphs and blank lines between each paragraph. If you have to make points, number them. Try to keep your sentences to a maximum of 15-20 words. For more tips see Effective Emailing.
Never attach unnecessary files to the mail. This can be annoying as sometimes heavy mails can bring down email systems – a surefire deal breaker. If you have to send attachments, compress them. And send only after vetting it through a good virus scanner. Also, be aware of the programme that you are using to send an attachment; the client should have the set up. Always click ‘Reply’ over ‘New Mail’. It creates the message thread. A ‘threadless email’ will not provide enough information and you will have to spend a frustratingly long time to find out the context of the email in order to deal with it.

Before you Hit Reply
The difference between the reply field and the cc field: when someone finds their name in the reply field, it means that the mail is intended for them, the cc field is ‘for information’ only. Think carefully before deciding who needs to see the mail and who needs to know ‘for information’. And only use the ‘Reply to All’ if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message. Try not to use the cc: field unless the recipient in the cc: field knows why they are receiving a copy of the message.
Most corporate mails should carry a disclaimer. As Michael Chissick, head of internet law at Field Fisher Waterhouse says: “The disclaimers added to the end of emails are not legally binding, but it’s always good practice to try and disclaim liability.” It is advisable to add disclaimers to your internal and external mails, since this can help protect your company from liability.
Consider the following scenario: an employee accidentally forwards a virus to a client by email. The client decides to sue your company for damages. If you add a disclaimer at the bottom of every external mail, saying that the recipient must check each email for viruses and that it cannot be held liable for any transmitted viruses, this will be of help to you in court. Or if an employee sues the company for allowing a racist email to circulate the office. If your company has an email policy in place and adds an email disclaimer to every mail that states that employees are expressly required not to make defamatory statements, you have a good case of proving that the company did everything it could to prevent offensive emails.

Etiquette for Internal Emailing :
In the past, senior managers had to dictate memos to their administrative assistants, who then had to type and distribute the memos, but now anyone with internal email access is but one click away. Unfortunately, in some companies, emailing has become more and more of a detriment to team unity. Rather than being a tool for keeping everyone in the loop, improper emailing chips away steadily at the interpersonal relationships between team members, who spend countless hours responding back and forth with too-carefully-worded messages.
Internal emails should be used only for disseminating information such as schedules, system upgrades, policy updates and other fact-based messages. Email is never the place to address topics that are likely to generate lots of questions, controversy and discussion points. And bad news should never be conveyed via mail.

Effective Mailing:
  • Keep it short and crisp
  • Tackle only one topic per mail
  • Try to use the active voice of a verb wherever possible
  • Be polite. Terseness can be misinterpreted
  • Don’t over-format. The sender might not be able to view formatting, or might see different fonts. Avoid using colours.
  • In business emails, steer clear of abbreviations such as BTW (by the way) and LOL (laugh out loud). Or god forbid, emoticons. And step away from the exclamation mark!
  • Never reply to an email when angry, as you may regret it later
  • Re-read the mail before sending for any spelling errors or typos
  • When replying to someone unknown to you: Dear Madam/Sir and end with Yours Faithfully
  • When replying to someone known to you: Dear Ms/Mr Shah and end with Yours Truly
  • When replying to someone known well to you: Dear Jamal and end with Yours Sincerely or Regards
  • Use a meaningful subject line which is to the point. And don’t use words like URGENT or IMPORTANT

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