Email Etiquette: Can You Ask Your Semicolon to Stop Flirting with Me?

Wait! This isn’t Dan! It’s just Dan sharing an old newsletter article by my out-on-maternity-leave partner Anna! Enjoy …

We all know the world is filled with people who make snap judgments about other people based on very little evidence. And we all know this because we all make snap judgments.

Want to avoid giving these people any ammunition with your emails? Then follow these tips:

1. You had me at “hello”: Imagine if someone walked up to you and launched right into a conversation without greeting you first. It feels rude, or at least a bit jarring, right? Same goes for an email. Say goodbye, too. Caveat: If you exchange several emails with the same person in a short period of time, it’s fine to leave off the greeting.

2. And today’s subject is … : Volumes have been written about how to write good subject lines, but it can be summed up like this: Be brief and descriptive. A good rule of thumb is that subject lines should not exceed 60 characters. That’s about seven or eight words.

3. Brevity is the soul of wit: And of good email. People are busy, so simply state your purpose and sign off. That’s not to say good writing doesn’t matter. Of course it does. But this isn’t the time to show off the new prose skills you’ve picked up in your adult education class. Save that for your blog.

4. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SHOUT! or whisper by writing in all lowercase. Email is not an excuse to abandon rules of punctuation!!! (That includes using multiple exclamation marks.)

5. Smile and the whole world won’t necessarily smile with you: Email is a breeding ground for misunderstanding. If there’s any chance something you’ve written could be taken the wrong way, pick up the phone. Don’t type a “smiley face” and hope for the best.

Would you like to share an email snafu or tip of your own?

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