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Email

Etiquettes

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Hi! I am Electronic Mail - in short people call me Email. I was born in 1965, a result of conjugation
of Communication and Internet. I am very popular among the netizens. I am just a tool, who is
smart and effective. I am just a facilitator for communication over internet. I am a very obedient
companion and never fiddle with one’s work. As with all my tools family, I am very powerful; if
used properly I can do wonders but if used carelessly then sorry to say but I can cause
irreparable damage. In contemporary world when I am overly used, effective use of me becomes
equally important. The worst thing about me is once used you can’t recall me – through people
are trying and are up to some extent successful also in recalling me. Anyone who received me
can store me in his locker like a priceless gem and encash me at right time. Unlike my ancestor
“verbal communication”, which used to leave no trail, you can trace me right from my inception till
my death.

So my friend I am at your service but use me carefully.

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Target right audience
It’s so easy to send me to anyone in this world. You just need to know the email address. But
before sending me just check, do you really want me to reach this person? It’s so easy to click on
“Reply to All”, sending to some ‘alias’ or adding anybody in senders list but have you ever thought
how much traffic and inconvenience it causes. Also, many people don’t like to receive unwanted
emails. Focus on following actions:
Adding someone in audience list: Before adding anyone in you senders list, ask yourself, why you
want to send this email to this person? What is its significance to him? Is he expecting it? For
example, you are leaving the organization you where working from a long time. On your relieving
date you want to send an adieu to everyone - due to emotion or excitement. But, don’t you think
we should send email to only those who know you; for others it’s just a spam.
“Reply to All”: Just by a click of a button you can reply back to all in the ‘To’ and CC list. But, ask
yourself, do you want to reply back to all? There is very high probability that you just want to reply
me to selective audience. For example, one of you colleague is leaving the company and he has
send an adieu to the organization. He was very close to you and you are desperate to reply and a
bon voyage. Then you should not reply back to all. You should reply back just to the sender.
Alias: Literal meaning of word ‘alias’ is “assumed name.” In the internet world, with respect to
email, alias is a common email address given for a group of people. Hence, it’s very important,
before sending email to any alias, who all are there in the group. Every Alias is created with some
purpose and emails send to these Alias have to be according to this purpose. If you are not sure
then don’t send email to the alias rather ask someone. You never know who is at the receivers
end, it could be your subordinate, peer, supervisor or CEO. Be careful!
Forward: Nowadays, a great amount of email traffic is forwards. You received something exciting
and you want to share it with everyone. But wait! Think! Does the sender wants this email to
reach to the person you are going to forward it? Suppose your boss sent some future resource
plan to your and you forwarded it to whole team. Do you think it’s correct? If wanted, your boss
could have easily sent the plan to everyone then why he sent it only to you? That is because he
wanted to share it only with you. Don’t act like router, don’t cause spam, don’t waste resources,
and don’t irritate others by sending junk email.

Keep it simple and terse


What’s communication? It’s “the activity of conveying information.” If your email fails to convey the
intended message then it’s a useless email and in worst case can cause irreparable damage.
Always remember: email is not a platform to show your intellect or effort.

1. Know your audience: This is the most important point for writing an effective email. Think
about your audience, their professional background, their knowledge about the subject,
their mental state, their relationship with you, their expectation from this email, their
culture, their religion. Let’s check out each point one by one.

First thing, try to understand what’s the recipients’ professional background? How much
they are familiar with the topic you are going to talk about? Do they need some help to
understand what you are talking about? Are they already aware of what you going to
talk? If a software developer explains about his code to some sales man then what he will
understand? He can understand from product functionality but not your code, right? Now
let’s take a case: suppose you are working as a customer care person for an online
banking. Some discrepancy in an online account has been reported by a customer, who
is not from an IT background. Now, before replying to him we need to keep following
things in mind:
• The recipient is a layman, who doesn’t understand even scintilla of software
internals.
• He just wants to know what went wrong with his account.

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• When it will be fixed
• What’s the severity

If you send him 50-60 lines email explaining the nitty-gritty of code bug, software issues
or IT system failure then it will a bouncer for him? So try to avoid giving any esoteric
details. If you have to give some abstruse information then try to explain it in layman’s
terms before, in order to make it easy for reader to understand.

I you think your superior is not in good mood and your email can irate him then wait for
the right moment. Don’t be in a hurry to send email. Don’t put anything against the
culture, religion or sect of any of your audience.
2. Collect your thought: Before start typing the email, collect your thoughts. Assemble them
in right order logically and chronologically. Keep most important and expected points first.
If it’s a lengthy email then your email has to have a flow: introduction, explanation and
conclusion. Remove the chaff and keep the crux.
3. Introduce the purpose of the email: When you are opening an email thread then your first
line got to be the purpose of the email. Higher the person in the corporate ladder more
the number of emails per day he receives. Some people even gets 100-500 emails per
day or might be more than that, beyond our imagination. Do you think they will have time
to go through all the emails from top to bottom? No. Until address explicitly, most of the
people just read first few lines and make an idea about the email. They shift it to “read it
later” folder if they don’t find it relevant. That’s why, in order to get right attention by right
people while saving others time, introduce the purpose of email in first line.

For example:

Hi Mars,

This email is regarding the <issue/bug number/defect number/case id>.


4. Keep it simple: Email is not an essay or story. Don’t try to created drama, romance,
suspension or tragedy, avoid lots of twists and turns, there is no place for climax, don’t
try to make it spicy (until required). In simple words, keep it simple!
5. Keep it terse: Your email has to be brief and to the point; effectively cut short. Instead of
telling each and every petty detail, until asked for, try to give a summarized view. For
example, you are supposed to resolve some problem but you are facing lots of issues.
You are trying your best, consulted lots of people, and posted your issues on lots of
forums. But, alas! No success and you don’t think you will be able to meet the deadline.
Your manager happens to be in some other country and, proactively, you want to inform
him, in time, about the issues you are facing. At the same time you want to justify your
efforts too. Now, how to send a terse email? First, understand your idea behind sending
the email:
• Convey the message that you are facing some issues due to deadline might slip.
• Not getting much help
• Showcase your effort

Now ask certain questions to yourself, does your manager want to know:
• Each and every issue?
• Whom all you have consulted?
• Which all forums you have posted the issue?

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If answer to any of the above question is no then don’t elaborate it in the email. In case
you feel that the manager would like see the list of issues and the list is big then you
should create a separate doc and attached it with the email.

6. Don’t use esoteric language and terminologies: Avoid using your field specific jargons if
you feel the email receiver is not from the same field. Suppose I am from IT background
and I start taking about server, application, API, web service, OS etc. in my email to a
person of non IT background then what he will understand? Similarly It can happen that
some abbreviation are very common in your clique and many times it happens that we
use these abbreviation in email to outsiders also. And believe me nothing irritates more
than these unknown abbreviations. For example in India TOI, TGIS, HT, DH and ET are
abbreviation for name of some of the well known newspapers in India. So if I use them to
a person in US then he will be less than baffled.

7. Give brief overview to new audience: Suppose there was a long email thread which going
on from past one month between you and a group of people. Now you want to add
someone in the email thread to get his input on the issue. While sending email, don’t
simple add him in sender list and expect him to go through the last 30 days long email
thread. Rather, give him as small overview and then ask your question.

Tone of email
An email should contain substance rather than emotion, until needed. When we talk to someone
face to face we can perceive others reaction through multiple indicators like facial expression,
tone and pitch of their voice. You can modify and justify things on the spot. But we don’t have this
flexibility in email. Until reply comes back you don’t know how the receiver perceived you email.
That’s why, at least in official emails, keep you tone neutral, talk about facts, and keep your
emotions aside. You need not have to be over courteous. Many people use word ‘please’ before
everything, don’t do it. Some time it looks compelling and frustrated email.

The same thing applies while replying any email. Read an email without emotions and keep
yourself on neutral ground. Your reply should not be a reaction; it needs to be a well judged
response.

If you are working in a team and work involves multiple folks then try not to use ‘I’. Instead try to
use ‘We’. For example, you were working on some issue and now you found that issue needs to
be fixed by some other person. Then while sending the email to update the person and everyone
else in the team, use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, even though if you have only analyzed the issue.

In addition, your email should be didactic. Don’t say “you need to do so and so” rather say “needs
to be done from your side” or “can you look into this?” Check this sample email:

Hi John,

We have analyzed the customer issue and found that following fix needs to be done from your
side:

Ways to show emphasis and their judicious use


Usually capital words are used to emphasis and differential standout important word/s from herd
of other unimportant words. However, in email capital words looks like someone is shouting at
you. In case the email is in plain text format then we don’t have any chose other than capitalizing
the text. However, in case you are using Rich Text or HTML format then there are many
alternative to show the emphasis. You can:

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• Italicize the text
• Underline the text
• Make the text as bold
• Use of different color
• Different font
• Different size

But, we need to be very careful while using these techniques. Never overuse them; else it loses
its effect. Also, to some readers it looks irritating and non-professional.

Praise in public and censure in private


Though it’s not specific to email communication, rather it’s applicable to all modes of
communications. While you are free to praise anyone in public but never-ever chastise anyone or
even point out someone’s mistake in the email which lots of people are going to receive. If
required then drop a separate email on top of the thread to the person whom you want to correct.
It’s very important for maintaining healthy relationship. Also while when you are trying to point out
a mistake then it should not look like dictating in tone, rather suggestive in tone. Nobody wants to
be instructed, at least in corporate world.

Use number list and bulleted list

Number and bulleted list are useful technique to show the different points and sequence of points.
Number list is used to show the sequence of point in the respective order. Order of the points in a
number list is very important else it can confuse or mislead the reader. There are many different
type of number list like:
1. Numeral
B. Alphabetical
III. Roman number

Different type of number listing can be used of nested list. Example:


1. Point 1
a. Sub-point 1
b. Sub-point 2

Bulleted list is used where order is not important. There are many different type of bulleted list,
however dot, star and hyphen are most common.
. Dot point
* Star point
- Hyphen point

Greeting
Greeting depends upon the multiple things like your relationship with the person you are sending
the email and type of email. In corporate emails best and safest greeting is ‘Hi’ - It has no side
effects. In official email avoid using as greeting word ‘Dear’. In formal emails, generally, ‘Dear’ is
used when recipient’s name is not used in the greeting. Suppose you are sending an email to
Customer Care department of some organization and not any person in particular then you can
say:

Dear Sir/Madam,
Dear Customer Care,

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When name of the person is used in the greeting then don’t use ‘Dear’ until the person is very
close to you, instead use ‘Hi’:

Hi Sam,

Personally, I don’t like ‘Hello’ for greeting in the emails. In personal emails sometimes simple
name of the recipient is good enough, without any other word for greeting. Usually that is done for
short email of one or two lines, where hi, hello or dear looks too formal. Like:

Sam,

Can you send me status report?

Regards,
Sudhakar

Suppose the email is suppose to address multiple people then question is, who all needs to be in
the greeting? Rule of thumb is anybody in to will be in the greeting. For example:

From: spandey1982@gmail.com
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 6:16 PM
To: john@eetiquette.com; merry@eetiquette.com; peter@eetiquette.com
Subject: Whom to greet

Hi John/Merry/Peter,

Regards,
Sudhakar

In case ‘To’ list is big then simply say “Hi All/Everyone”. While ‘And’ and ‘Or’ has significant role.
When the email is applicable to both the recipient then ‘And’ is used and when it’s applicable
either of them then ‘Or’ is used. For example:

From: spandey1982@gmail.com
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 6:16 PM
To: john@eetiquette.com; merry@eetiquette.com;
Subject: Status update?

Hi John and Merry,

Please send me sales update of your areas for this week.

Regards,
Sudhakar

From: spandey1982@gmail.com
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 6:16 PM
To: john@eetiquette.com; merry@eetiquette.com;
Subject: Status update?

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Hi John or Merry,

Please send me sales update for this week.

Regards,
Sudhakar

If the email recipient is the person you want to address then keep his email id in ‘To’ list. If you
just want to inform the person then keep him in ‘CC’. And if you want to inform the person without
making him visible to all then keep him in ‘BCC’. Now general question arises, when will you need
to inform someone without making him visible to others and why? Following are some of the
scenarios:
• You want to send an email to a large group of audience and don’t want people to reply all.
Also, in case anyone has any concern then they should reply to sender only. Add
everyone in the BCC list.
• You want to send an email to someone like customer, subordinate or superior, and at the
same time want to keep you manager, in loop without making recipient aware of it then
keep your manager in BCC.
• Some people don’t like to expose their email ids to entire world and just because they
have given their you email that doesn’t mean you expose it to everyone. In such cases
keep these email ids in BCC.

Personal Signature
Personal signature can be used for multiple purposes. Like:
• Providing your contact detail
• Promoting your organization
• Thoughts. Don’t use this in official emails; nothing looks more unprofessional than this.

Software like Microsoft Outlook provides tools to create signatures. Following are few examples
of signature:

1. Providing contact detail


__________________________
Sudhakar Pandey
Senior Software Engineer
Yodlee Infotech Pvt. Ltd.
Software Tech Park,
Bangalore, 540023
Tel: ##########
Fax: ##########
Cell (International): ##########
Cell (India): ########
Skype: spandey1982
Gtalk: spandey1982@gmail.com

2. Promoting your organization:


----------------------------------------------------------
Sudhakar Pandey
Senior Software Engineer
Yodlee Infotech Pvt. Ltd.

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Tel: +91-80-22386941 Ext: 402
Mobile: +91-99080012395

www.yodlee.com

Yodlee Infotech -helping Financial Services Providers (FSPs) fully leverage the
online channel to drive more satisfying and profitable customer relationships via a
suite of solutions that automate and simplify consumers' financial chores while
generating new revenue opportunities for FSPs.

3. Thoughts:
----------------------------------------------------------
Sudhakar Pandey
Don't Work Hard... Work Smart

However while reply or forward sign-off should contain only “Regards” and your name. Like:

Hi John,

….

Regards,
Sudhakar

In official emails in the sign-off always use “Regards” anything else is not recommended. If you
want to say thanks to someone then do it separately but your last line has to be “Regards”.

Email Subject
Higher the position of the person, more the number of emails they receive per day. Most of the
time busy people just look at the subject and decide what kind of attention the email requires. An
email’s subject is like the trailer of a movie. Keep following things in mind while deciding the
subject:
• It has to be short. Not more than one sentence and should not have more than 10 words.
• Should indicate what email is going to talk about.
• If possible, should indicate what you are looking for from receiver.
• Should have certain key words to depict if the email is a reply, forward, reminder, request
etc.
List of key words:
• RE: reply to some email
• FW: forwarding some email to someone.
• Reminder: reminding someone about something.
• Request: request someone for something.
• WAS: when you want to change the subject of some old email

Suppose you email talks about writing effective email subject then following are examples of
some good subjects:
• Bug#23224: Effective email subject
• Regarding effective email subject
• RE: Regarding effective email subject
• FW: Regarding effective email subject
• Request: lecture of effective email subject

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• Reminder: meeting for discussion on effective email subject

Change old subject: Many times we feel the subject of ongoing email thread is not correct and
want to change it then while replying or forwarding the email we should mention the new subject
like this:
RE/FW: <New Subject> (WAS :< Old Subject>)

EOM: End of email


If the email is very short possibly just one line then you can write that one line in subject and
mention key word in <EOM> in the subject line to indicate end of email. For example:

Attachments
A huge bandwidth of today’s internet is emails and attachments constitute the majority of the size
of the email. If the size of the attachment is more than 1MB then zip it and then attach it. Also, if
there is more than one attachment in the email then in case you mention any of the attachment in
the email’s body then mention the attachment name in the email. For example:

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Wait! Before pressing ‘Send’ button
Most of the email applications provide spelling and grammar check facility. Once you have
composed the email run the spelling and grammar check. Review your email at least once before
clicking on “Send” button because once pressed the email is in somebody else inbox. It’s like an
spoken word which can’t be called back. But unlike spoken word this email can be revisited or
reproduced infinite time.

Some standard points


1. Don’t change the font of the email. Always have a simple and standard email font like
Times Roman or Arial. Never use fancy font’s just because they are provided by your
email application. My personal preference is Arial with font size 10.
2. Color of the email text need to be standard, don’t use fancy colors just because you email
application provides it. My personal preference is black and dark blue. Use black when
you are sending email to someone and use dark blue while replying.
3. Most of the email applications provide an indicator to mark important emails that needs
high attention. For example, Microsoft Outlook provides ‘!’. But don’t mark normal email
as high attention because it causes lots of inconvenience.
4. Suppose you send an email and after sending it you realized that you missed to mentions
something or there is some mistake in the email then don’t hesitate to follow-up
immediately. Do the following:
a. Reply to all
b. Mention the update or mistake.
c. And at end say “Sorry for spam.
d. For example:

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References
http://www.netmanners.com/email-etiquette-basics.html

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