Mind Your Language with Emefa Agordoh-Mekpor : E-mailtiquette


Before you click send: Email courtesy for boys and girls in the professional world – ( 1)

 According to one Forbes survey, as many as 90 billion emails are sent every single day! That’s slightly higher today as the Coronavirus pandemic is forcing many businesses to go digital. Businesses are now sending more emails than they used to in order to stay in touch with clients. This is why you need to begin to take them seriously, if you didn’t before.  Emails are an important part of business communication and care must be taken to send the right message across about the ‘message’ and about you, too.

Here is our list of some dos and don’ts for sending better and more professional emails:

  1. Beginning

DO Have a concise subject:

Fill in that field that indicates ‘Subject’ with a detailed and concise subject. Why? – Because we all receive too many emails in a day, and we have no time to open each one before deciphering the content. And be as concise as possible- instead of a general ‘business proposal’, write ‘Johnsons’ business proposal attached’.

If the mail is important or urgent, remember to attach these words to the front of the subject just to make sure the recipient does not miss it. Like this- ‘URGENT: Johnsons’ Business Proposal attached’.

Ensure that your subject clearly reflects the content of the mail – don’t try to trick the recipient. Do not send a mail with the subject ‘Happy New Year’ when you really want to follow up on a project.


DO Use cc and bcc sparingly:

Think carefully before you copy the message to others. Don’t copy people who have no business with the content of the mail just to impress them. You will come off to them as cocky.

Don’t use the blind carbon copy (bcc) unless per strict instructions or to copy a long list of people who do not know or have any business with each other.

But if you have a long list of contacts to send it to, use the carbon copy (cc) feature instead of sending it to a long list of people as the recipient has to scroll down before actually getting to your message.


DON’T use an informal salutation:

Salutations such as ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ are considered inappropriate (although this is gradually being accepted by some people in some circles). At worst, you can use ‘hello’ with the person’s first name for those you know quite well, e.g. Hello John. The most appropriate is ‘Dear’ with the person’s title and surname with a colon after it like this –

Dear Ms Ashley:

Don’t use a person’s title with the first name. You should never write something like this – Dear Mr John! Always remember that titles go with surnames.

  1. Body/ Content

DON’T think your e-mail is confidential…:

… so avoid sending personal messages that will put you in trouble if someone else were to read it. You are sending something online and anything could go wrong – it could be forwarded to another person, read mistakenly by another or monitored by the IT personnel of a company. If the information is sensitive or personal, it might be better to pick the phone and make that call.

 DO Make your mail as brief as possible:

Please do not write an essay. An email is business correspondence and all business correspondence is expected to be straight to the point. If the content is too long, consider making it an attachment.

I do agree that sometimes, a lot of information needs to be sent as soon as possible but at other times, the sender is just bad at summarising information or sifting out important details or thinks he can impress with more words. You could not be farther from the truth. If the person needs to take an action, state it; if you want to ask a question, state it; and if you need some info, state it. No beating about the bush.,

The acronym that works here is KISS- Keep it simple and sweet!

 Don’t send negative or insulting messages:

This is a true mark of professionalism. To convey the best tone, avoid messages that insult, defame or could be considered offensive. If that is how you feel at that point, you should delay sending that message until you calm down. Like I said earlier, that is hard evidence that can be used against you later.

DO stay within formal language limits but with a friendly tone:

Formal language means many things and by saying formal language limits, we mean you may be semi-formal (at some point) but definitely not informal.

Being formal means choose full forms over contracted forms (‘did not’ instead of ‘didn’t’ or ‘I am’ instead of ‘I’m’ or ‘am’); full forms over abbreviations (‘I will be right back’ instead of ‘brb’ or ‘by the way’ instead of ‘btw’); correct usage of punctuation marks (avoid exclamation marks and avoid phrases such as ‘Really???!’); and standard forms instead of chatty forms (‘We hope you are fine’ instead of ‘Hope you are good’).

Well, that about does it for today. We hope you will now be checking for these things the next time you are sending that mail.

We hope you learnt something. But hold on- we are not done. Next week, we will continue with email trends during COVID-19 and what to look out for.


Leave a Reply