Reply All? Please Don’t. And Other Email Etiquette Tips

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This post was written by Emily Brown, a reg­ular con­trib­utor to The Works and a grad­uate stu­dent in the Col­lege Stu­dent Devel­op­ment and Coun­seling pro­gram at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. She is also a Career Devel­op­ment Intern

Email is often the prin­cipal form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in busi­ness set­tings.  As you begin co-​​op or your first post-​​grad job, keep in mind that how you present your­self via email can con­tribute to your overall rep­u­ta­tion among coworkers. Keeping in mind some simple email eti­quette can help ensure you build a pos­i­tive rep­u­ta­tion at the work­place both in person and online.

  • Use an appropriate level of formality – be more formal with higher level professionals, but also mirror others’ email style and address them with the same level (or higher) of formality with which they address you
  • Provide a clear subject line
  • Respond within 24-48 hours
  • Double check that the email is going to the correct person – Autofill isn’t always as helpful as it’s meant to be
  • Acknowledge receipt of emails even if it does not require a response – especially if someone is providing you with information you need
  • Be concise – emails should be short and to the point
  • Number your questions – if you’re asking multiple questions, the person on the receiving end is more likely to read and respond to them all if they’re clearly broken out
  • Include a signature – no one should have to search for your contact information
  • Don’t overuse the high priority function
  • Use “reply all” sparingly and only cc those who need the information
  • If you forward someone an email, include a brief personalized note explaining why
  • Remember, no email is private – once you hit send, you have no control over with whom the email is shared. This is particularly important if you are working for any type of government agency in Massachusetts, in which case email is considered public record.
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While these are gen­er­ally good rules of thumb, it is also impor­tant to be aware of the com­pany cul­ture. Some com­pa­nies rely more heavily on email for in-​​office com­mu­ni­ca­tion than others. If you see coworkers approaching one another with ques­tions, you should prob­ably do the same. To avoid guessing, ask your super­visor about com­mu­ni­ca­tion pref­er­ences when you start the job. And even an in email cul­ture, it’s prob­ably best to use the phone for last minute schedule changes or cancellations.

Emily Brown is a Career Devel­op­ment intern and a grad­uate stu­dent in Northeastern’s Col­lege Stu­dent Devel­op­ment and Coun­seling Pro­gram. She is a life­long Bostonian inter­ested in the inte­gra­tion of social media into the pro­fes­sional realm.  Con­tact her at e.​brown@​neu.​edu.