Practical Guide to Effective Email Practices at Work

Email is your corporate image…

Having policies on the topic is just as important as customer service policies. Email training could include: a review of what is proprietary, what is confidential, what is inappropriate content such as racism or harassment (and what the outcome of sending these types of emails could be on their employment), how to communicate with customers, how to handle angry emails, expectations for salutations and punctuation, and how to use time efficiently with email.

To help with this, we’ve included below a practical guide to effective email practices at work.

LEGAL MATTERS: Email leaves a permanent trail that can be used for legal evidence. Be sure that your content does not make commitments
that go beyond your role. When in doubt, seek input.

SUBJECT LINES: Every email should start with a clear and concise subject line that summarizes the purpose of the message—express urgency if necessary.

SIGNATURE LINES: Your email signature, which contains your name, job title and contact information, should be included in every email. To set this up automatically in Microsoft Outlook, go to: Tools > Options > Mail Format > and use the Signature Picker to select a default signature.

EMAIL CONTENT: Content should be clear and to the point. Avoid using abbreviations (e.g. AFAIK, instead of saying “As far as I know”) and emoticons (e.g. happy faces) that may be misunderstood or perceived as unprofessional. Also be aware of your Cap Locks key. Using capital letters implies you’re yelling and can make an email seem harsh.

ATTACHMENTS: If you reference an attachment in an email, be sure to attach it before sending.

CC VERSUS BCC: If you are sending a message to multiple recipients, consider using the ‘CC’ (courtesy copy) feature, instead of ‘BCC’ (blind copy), as this may be perceived as deceptive.

REPLY ALL: If someone sends a group message, think about your response before sending— is it intended for the whole group or just one person?

FORWARDING EMAILS: If you are forwarding a message to another recipient as a general FYI, there’s no need to edit the original message. Even if you notice a small error, leave it as is to maintain the integrity of the message. Be sure you have permission to forward the email before doing so.

EMAIL LISTS: Nowadays we’re asked to share our emails with almost everyone. Avoid cluttering your work inbox with unnecessary messages about the latest deals and hoaxes.

PERSONAL, NOT PROFESSIONAL CONTENT: While some relationships at work may be friendships, it’s best to keep email at work to business content. Racy jokes, email chain messages, fundraising requests and personal pictures are best sent after hours and from a personal account. Racial and sexual jokes to and from our company email is not acceptable at any time.