15 Professional Email Rules That Help Build Your Self-Awareness
You can learn self-awareness by how you approach writing an email.
When you reply right away in reaction to the sender’s email contents, you are sending words down that will be forever etched in stone until the received email is deleted. Be professional.
Use self-awareness and kindness as a guide. With email, text, and social media, in your busyness it’s easy to confuse which medium you’re working on.
15 Email Rules to Live By
1. Stay professional and friendly.
Email is written, recorded proof that can stay in one’s email inbox for as long as they have email setup. I still have saved important emails from over a decade ago. You can’t take back an email that has been opened and read.
You can be friendly, creative, and humorous, but never rude. Never send emails with “!!!” unless it’s a positive statement… “that’s great!!!”
Never use ALL CAPS for the entire email, that screams ignore the email after you’ve read it, or makes the recipient question the email sender’s sanity.
2. Start the opening sentence or paragraph with the tone intent of the email.
If it’s sad or bad news, don’t start with an exclamation point ending sentence, such as “hope you are well!”. Because if the recipient was well before opening your email, they may not be once they read your email. You could be ruining their day with the news. Set the tone from the beginning.
3. Don’t mistake email for texting communication.
Use the rules of writing and casual writing. Use abbreviations when what is abbreviated is commonly understood or else write out the full words and description if necessary.
4. Your tone comes through your thoughts.
If you harbor resentment or ill feelings, don’t send the email. You may need to write, and re-write several drafts to calm down, before sending. Delete previous drafts so they don’t accidentally get sent.
Using emails for an emotional release hurts your character if the contents do not contain a way for the recipient to understand your feelings and where you are coming from. Don’t assume others remember previous actions, situations, or details. Re-state or make clear what you are referring to as past situations or the basis of your email.
5. Start a new email or email chain with the person’s name and/or a greeting (hi, hello, dear, greetings).
This will set the tone for a friendly email. Email is not texting. Think of a short letter, that can be casual in tone. Keep emoticons to a minimum.
If you’re someone who doesn’t usually have good news to send to a group or person, especially in the subject line, state what the email is about so they can be better prepared for any minefields.
6. Use the subject line to describe the email contents.
Don’t leave the subject line as the default “Re:”. Change subject lines when there is back and forth reply if there is a new topic or subject you are writing about. This makes it easier to refer to later if needed.
7. Don’t hit send until you have proofread and edited your email.
This may take saving as a draft and then coming back later to edit.
8. If you have multiple points, use bullets, or easy to read formatting.
Large blocks of words are difficult to read and important points of the email can be missed. Use 1–3 sentences as a guide for a maximum paragraph.
9. Never send long rants in email. Keep freedom of speech to social media or phone conversation to hash out challenges if that is your style.
Always stay humble if you have nothing positive to say. That way the reader will know that you gave what you’re writing as important to you, but in consideration of others. For example start or preface with: “I don’t usually write things of this nature…” or “I hope I don’t offend anyone with my comments.”
This will help keep your ego in check. You don’t want to offend people. That is never a good way.
10. Never send an email that serves as being an offensive threat, condemnation, or persecution.
If you would be upset or have emotional unrest if you were to receive your email, then don’t send the email. Use kindness and respect for others as your compass.
Come back to thinking how you are helping the world be a better place with your email, or moving the needle forward with your work and collaboration. Think being considerate.
11. Use the Golden Rule for best time to send email.
Do unto others as you would like done unto you. Send good news emails anytime. Send bad news emails when they will not cause a damper to the recipients’ morning or weekend.
12. Leave next steps, a question, or what is a desired action in closing.
Make it easy for the recipient to know what your requests or intent are. Consider open ended questions over binary yes/no questions. Start a request you want to happen, with “could you?” or “would you”? If you write “can you”, the receiver may think they can, but they may not take action.
13. These words never go out of style:
“Please” and “thank you”.
14. If you have attachments, point them out in the email body.
“Attached below are ____.” or “I’ve attached ____, for you to _____.”
For best practices, include how many attachments and what they are for. Do you want action taken on them? Are they self-explanatory or need explanation?
Many people are wisely hesitant to open attachments or photos if they aren’t prefaced with what they are and that you sent them.
15. Be consistent.
Be obvious with your agenda. Don’t write out hidden agendas. If you state that there is a bad situation, put your problem solver and helper hat on. How can you fix this situation? Or how can you email recipients help to contribute ideas?
Don’t write words that add insult to injury. If you write positive words and statements, and then switch to undesirable action requests or negative requests, you may come across as phony or the bad guy or girl. The recipient can be scratching their head thinking what the real email intent is and question the person writing the email.
There you have it… 15 professional email rules. If you stay mindful, then you can have better communication and awareness to your thought process. Intentional email writing is a good way to practice self-awareness.