November 06, 2012

Proper etiquette for email replies

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People who live in their email inboxes are incredibly busy. Moving from one email to another in as little time as possible is the norm. And when time is of the essence and we can receive hundreds of emails a day, how do you make sure your email is replied to, let alone looked at? Here are a few things that work for me:

    • Be concise - No one wants to read an email essay. I know that there are times when verbose emails are needed, but if you can chop it down, do it. It may take time to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, it'll save time for you (because you're not adding and removing superfluous information) and the recipient time.

    • Replying inline - This may be one of the most useful things that I see used the least, and it's a great way to reply to several questions. Remember, people read emails for information, not pleasure, so make sure that the information they want is readily available for them without the need of digging through a mountain of text.

    • Fonts - Fonts may seem like a tiny detail, but trust me, sometimes the tiniest details have the biggest impact. And this is one of those times. Really, there's no need to change the font when writing emails. The only justifiable reason to change a font is to use one of the classic fonts (Helvetica or Times) at a reasonable size (size 11-13). Anything diverging from this is a definite faux-pas. Changing the color to anything other than black should be avoided -- that is, unless you're putting emphasis on part of the text.

    • Signatures - The signature is buried at the bottom of your email for a reason -- it isn't supposed to visually be the loudest thing in the message. Your signature should just be text with your name, contact info, and a little bit about you do. Anything more than that (e.g., a photo) can be excessive, especially since shows up as an attachment.

    • Don't be afraid of not getting a reply - Does your email not need to be replied to? If it doesn't warrant a reply, say so. That allows whoever is reading to look at the message, and immediately take the appropriate actions -- whether that be deleting, archiving, sorting, or something else entirely. And that saves time.

What else do you think is good etiquette for emails? Email templates? Friendly greeting? Let us know in comments below!