Email Reply Etiquette: 13 Important Rules for Responding to Professional Emails

In the 21st century, email has become one of the most significant ways in which individuals, students, companies, and business owners communicate professionally and personally. The use of email gained so much popularity with the aid of the internet that it is now used as a form of digital marketing. However, it is a fact that email has now become more popular and effective than the telephone in reaching out to larger audiences, and there is a clear need to learn email reply etiquette.

Nowadays, business organizations, schools, and colleges reach out to their clients and potential customers with their emails rather than phone numbers, intending to reach as many customers as possible. It is a known fact that a lot of people compose and reply to at least one email a day, and many individuals find themselves writing multiple emails daily.

Writing and responding to professional emails is not so hard, and it is not rocket science. All you need to do is to follow a few email reply etiquettes which I will discuss with you in this article. A well-crafted email can make a difference. It can give you a successful working relationship with your clients or customers. Doing otherwise could harm your relationship with them by creating confusion or insult.

Before going into the guidelines about writing a professional email, I would quickly discuss what we mean by email etiquette.

What is email etiquette?

Email etiquette refers to the principles of behaviour that an individual or company should use when writing, answering and sending email messages. It is also called the code of conduct or guidelines a person must follow when replying to a professional email message. Email etiquette depends on whom we are addressing. For example, it might be friends, family, colleagues, partners, customers, bosses, or subordinates.

Email etiquette can be different depending on the nature of the email being sent. For example, the email etiquette you are expected to follow when sending emails to friends and family is likely different from the etiquette expected of you in the workplace. Knowing basic email etiquette can ensure that you are perceived as professional and have confidence when writing or responding to emails in various settings.

13 email reply etiquettes for writing professional emails

1. Ensure that your email address sounds professional

A professional email address is an essential part of good email etiquette. When responding to an email within your organization, always use the email address provided to you by your company. Use your name as part of any business email address, for example, [email protected] or [email protected] Avoid using nicknames, monikers, and aliases – you don't want to use something like [email protected] or [email protected] because it seems off and unprofessional. Using your name as part of your email address sounds more mature, original, and professional.

2. Ensure your tone is professional

When replying or sending professional emails, we often forget to check the tone before hitting the submit button and, in turn, sound very unprofessional. Using a professional manner is one of the etiquettes of a professional email. Sometimes it helps to put the email aside if you're having difficulty with the tone, significantly when you receive an angry message or when you feel bad or mad, which may affect the style of your message. You can also read your email aloud and see how it sounds. The type of relationship you have with the person and the purpose of your email will dictate the formality or informality of your email. For example, when emailing classmates or colleagues, your tone would be much more informal than with a business partner or the manager of a company or clients.

3. Include a clear and concise subject line

The subject line goes a long way in determining whether an email gets opened or not and how the recipient responds. An email containing a blank subject line will likely get deleted or overlooked. It also puts the recipient through a lot of stress trying to figure out their mail, which can get annoying. Therefore when writing a professional email, ensure your email subject line is clear and easily understood. A clear subject help conveys to the recipient what your email is about and ensures that your email gets opened by the recipient.

4. Check your grammar or spelling mistakes

This is an essential email reply etiquette when replying to an email. Always double-check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation to avoid making mistakes. Writing an error-free email would make you look more professional and organized. There are different tools you can use when writing an email, you can either copy and paste to your Microsoft word to correct it, or you can use Grammarly, which is accessible both on a computer and mobile devices.

5. Make sure you use the proper salutation

Salutations can vary depending on the recipient. Many business professionals have argued that using a formal greeting in an email remains the best. However, sometimes it depends on whom you are writing to or sending an email to. To a colleague you are familiar with, you can use formal and informal salutations like ‘Hi there, ‘Hey', or simply ‘Hi'. When addressing the head of a company, university, or client, you should address them formally, even if you are familiar with them. For example, you can use ‘dear sir', ‘dear ma' etc.

6. Respond to professional emails as soon as possible

If you receive tons of emails daily, replying to all of them could prove difficult, but you have to answer them and not only reply to them but also reply on time – that is considered good email reply etiquette. Responding to emails on time shows a lot of commitment and diligence and would build your trust with your clients. Sometimes the email message requires more time for you to respond. You can send the recipient a statement acknowledging that you have received the letter, and it would take time for you to respond, probably within 24 hours or five working days. This would put the recipient's mind at rest and let them know that you have them in mind. Another thing you can do is prioritize your emails as they come in so that you can determine which emails require the fastest responses.

7. Ensure your recipient's name is spelt correctly

Misspelling your recipients' names is bad email reply etiquette. Always double-check the recipient's name and ensure it is spelt correctly. Don't use abbreviations or nicknames. Make sure their names are spelt in full before sending an email. Another thing you can do is to go to their LinkedIn pages and compare their names to the ones you have on your headings to make sure everything rhymes with what you have. Misspelling one's name can make your communication look offensive and insulted, and this might not give you the proper response you were hoping for from the recipient.

8. Always use standard fonts that are easy to read

Try to use the standard font when typing your email. You don't want to hurt the eyes of your recipients by using horrible fonts. I always recommend times new roman, calibre, Arial, 1.5 or double line spacing, and a font of 12. This ensures that the size and lettering of your email are easy to read and scan by most recipients.

9. Avoid using emojis or other animations in your email

Adding emojis or different animations, such as smiley faces, lol, etc., in a professional email would sound off and give the wrong impression to the recipient.

10. Always write in full

Avoid abbreviations in professional emails, as this may give the recipient the wrong impression of you being lazy and not taking the email seriously. Using abbreviations like Federal government ( FG), Account (Acct), etc., might not relate well with the recipient. You don't want your recipients to start bringing out their dictionary or typing into google to understand the content of your email.

11. Include only the necessary attachment

When writing a professional email, always indicate somewhere in your email that you've included an extension so your recipient doesn't overlook it. Make sure it is necessary before you include an attachment in your email. Ensure that it is required for the particular email you are sending. For example, you can be asked to send your credentials when applying for admission to a college. Instead of stuffing the whole email with your credentials which might be much, you can create a PDF file for your credentials and send it as a whole. That way, it looks more organized and easy to understand.

12. Check to make sure you are sending your email to the correct recipient

Working under pressure or against a deadline can lead to mistakes like sending an email to the wrong person or another person with the same name as the company. Sending an email to the wrong recipient might have significant consequences for your business or organization because you would believe or assume that you have sent that email and might have moved on to other things. At the same time, the customer still expects your email to be addressed to the wrong person. It can be easy to click on a saved email address only to realize it was the wrong email recipient after it was sent. Double-check that you have the correct recipient's email address before hitting the send button to maintain good email reply etiquette.

13. Proofread your email before sending

Before you send that email to that organization or to that school, did you proofread it? Are you sure there are no errors, no punctuation errors, no misspelt sentences? Proofreading matters greatly when writing a professional email or any other piece of writing. Some tools can aid you, like Grammarly, which scans your text for common grammatical errors like misused commas and complex ones like misplaced modifiers. Another tool to use is Microsoft Word.

You can copy and paste to Microsoft Word, which would point out the incorrect sentences and misplaced commas, etc. You can also give it to another person to read for you, preferably someone with a good command or understanding of English. Ensure you proofread the email at least once or twice to ensure it is error-free and includes all necessary information. Proofreading your emails can prevent spelling and grammar errors as part of good email reply etiquette.

It would be easy to respond to emails professionally if you follow the 13 email reply etiquette listed above.

Opeyemi Olagoke
Opeyemi Olagoke
Olagoke Opeyemi Dare is a writer, digital marketer, and researcher with over 2 years of experience as a researcher. He is currently an intern at Spark Connect where he focuses on the fundamentals of digital marketing, social media marketing, and copywriting. He has written different articles and papers for various blogs and academic research projects respectively.

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