In life, there are a number of events that we find to be inevitable: the rising of the sun each morning, the tide, and email. I’m sure there are other items that we can add to that list—like taxes and government officials disappointing us—but today I want to take a look at email.
I remember the first email account I signed up for in the early ’90s. It was so fascinating. I can also recall trying to convince my boss at the time that we really needed to get a company email account. It took some convincing, but I managed to do it. Once we had it, we never stopped.
It is very likely that if you are reading this, then you have to use email for your job. Some of us use it all day long, while others only a few times a day. No matter how much you use email on a professional level, there are five you should never do in an email. And so here is a bit of professional email etiquette advice—namely, five things you should never do.
1. No Subject in the Subject Line.
This makes me scream for several reasons. How am I supposed to know if your email is worth my time if you can’t be bothered to include its subject? Email subjects make sorting very easy. I can quickly browse through my inbox to find which email I need via the subject line. If it is blank, I have no idea what its contents are. Another reason filling out the subject line is important is because many spam filters interpret no subject as spam and block the email. Do you want your email blocked because you were lazy?
2. No Email Address in the Signature.
There have been many instances that I have received a forwarded email and was asked to respond via email. The problem is that there is no email address to reference. When you forward an email to somebody, the sender’s email address is typically removed. The new recipient can see the address. This is easily resolved by adding your email address to your email signature. That way the address remains in the body of the email as text.
3. Professionals Using Free Email Services.
This one drives me nuts. Yes, free email services like Gmail are extremely useful and very easy to use, but they can also portray your company as being cheap and unprofessional. You don’t want that to happen. If you have a small business or are a “one-man/woman show,” using Gmail can feel like the way to go. But it can also reinforce to your clients that you are small and lack resources. It can make you appear as though you might not be able to really provide what clients need because of your company size. I know I get this feeling of doubt when I see it. Purchase your own URL (website address) and set up an email account with it. If you think this is expensive or difficult, it’s not. Most website hosting providers can set these up for you in a few minutes and only for the price of registering your URL, which is around $15 a year. Never, ever use the email address given to you by your Internet service provider.
4. CC Instead of BCC.
Spam is bad, annoying, and a time waster. So are mass emails. If you need to send the same email to many people and those people don’t need to respond to the other recipients, then please use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) option. This makes sure that my email address (and everyone else’s) is not exposed to 50 other people. It also prevents the dreaded Reply All debacle from happening. If the email is meant as a group communication where the recipients might have to respond to the entire group, then use the TO or CC sending option.
5. Using Company Email for Personal Use.
Never do this, no matter what. The company email is not your email. This email address and its contents belong to your employer. Do not use it to communicate with your doctor, your friends, and absolutely never use company email for your banking. You do not own this email account, so use it only for your company’s business. I have personally experienced former employees contacting us to try to access their old email address to reset a banking password or to reply to a dating service! Because you do not own your company’s email account, you can lose control of it at any time. You can be fired, laid off, the company may close, or you might quit. Do all of your personal business with your personal email account.
I’m sure there are other habits of email users that are also egregious, but these five are the worst offenders in my book. Following these five tips about professional email etiquette will eliminate some communication issues and keep your private business out of the hands of others.