Email Etiquette

Published March 10, 2021

While email is the most expeditious way to communicate, we have to be mindful and thoughtful about what we choose to share before clicking send. Additionally, the sheer volume of messages we're reading and writing each day can be overwhelming. Here is a list of email etiquette tips you should practice daily.

Remember that nothing is truly ‘confidential’ in an email

One of the most valuable pieces of advice received during my career has been to never put something in an email that I wouldn’t want to have appear on the front page of The New York Times. Possibly if some emails you send are forwarded to unintended parties it might cause big problems with clients, the firm or team members. The internal discussion about our work papers or technical positions that clients are proposing to take should be kept out of emails since this is time-sensitive information that will most likely change upon conclusion of the engagement. Often these types of emails can be read and interpreted differently than was originally intended, and then can be used against us in the event of a future conflict. This can result in some stressful moments if our advice is challenged or an email winds up as part of litigation. Email can be retrieved even after you have deleted it from your inbox, and emails can sit on client servers or on hard drives of business associates for years, so please be mindful and careful of content. Pick up the phone if you want to share highly confidential or sensitive information.

Don’t send an email when you are angry

We all have those times when we get excited or angry at someone and want to let them know our feelings via email. While I admit sometimes you need to respond to emails that push your buttons to ‘set the record straight,’ the best process is always to write the response and then step away from your inbox, sleep on it and reread it in the morning. This can be cathartic by allowing you to vent, but with some time to “cool off” it allows you to correct your tone and make your point without looking defensive or creating an email dialogue you will regret.

Be cautious with humor and tone

Humor can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions. Something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else. When in doubt, leave it out. Which is why my emails are so boring. ????

Think twice before hitting reply all

No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting reply all unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.

Include a clear, direct subject line

Examples of a good subject line include "Meeting date changed," "Quick question about your tax return," or "Suggestions for the proposal.” People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line.

Reply to an email that wasn't intended for you

When an email is accidentally sent to you, remember the sender is expecting a reply from the intended recipient. Simply respond with something like: "I know you're very busy, but I don't think you meant to send this email to me. Letting you know so you can send it to the correct person."

Proofread every message

Your mistakes won't go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. Use spell-check often, and reread important emails a couple of times, preferably aloud, before sending them off. It will keep you from making blunders like “sorry for the incontinence” when you meant to say “sorry for the inconvenience.”

Add the email address last

You don't want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message.

Double-check that you've selected the correct recipient, and the right message

This is particularly applicable when responding from your phone. You may be including the entire firm in a response meant for one person. You may also be inadvertently forwarding an email stream you didn’t mean to share.

Double-check your attachment before sending

Open it to make sure you attached the right file or the right version. The few added seconds could possibly save you embarrassment or from sending something you shouldn’t have.

Sometimes it is much easier to call rather than type an email

Think about calling before replying to some of your emails, plus it creates a personal connection that email can’t.
(Source :  AccountingToday – Best of the Week – March 6, 2021)