Did You Forget to Answer My Email or Were You Just Being Rude?

Netiquette word cloud with abstract backgroundWe’re all swamped with emails, but do you routinely ignore your business correspondence? Am I not important enough for you to respond in a timely manner, or do you just treat everyone rudely?

What’s Timely?

If you’re in the client service business, then it’s advisable to establish the ground rules for emails. Discuss an acceptable time frame with your client. A fairly common guideline is to answer by end of day. But suppose you’re working on a crisis. Then the rule is to reply as soon as you can.

If you need more time to gather information, then send a quick note explaining that you’ll respond as quickly as possible. Shoot him an update as soon as you know when he can expect the information he requested.

What’s not acceptable is to ignore client emails or emails from any other business colleagues. Nothing is more frustrating than expecting a response and not receiving one. It’s not only rude, it sends a message that the sender is not valued.

Text Or Not

Young professionals who grew up with the Internet are big on texting. While you may be comfortable texting, more seasoned executives seem to prefer email most of the time. Texting Beats Other Forms of Communication - Arrow RisesSo, ask first before texting.

There seems to be a double standard: it’s acceptable to ignore email but the informal rule is to respond immediately to a text.

Texting is fine when you want to let someone know you’re going to be five minutes late for lunch. But a text is no substitute for a more detailed and nuanced email.

And an email is no substitute for a live conversation. If you find that you’re back-and-forthing with emails on an issue, then after the fourth or fifth email it’s time to pick up the phone. You’ll resolve the issue more quickly and avoid misunderstandings.

Basic Etiquette

The first rule of etiquette is to simply reply to your emails. That’s just polite and common sense. Here are a few more guidelines:

  • Include an email signature. Make it easy for the sender to call you or send you something by regular mail.
  • Don’t send confidential information. Sony Pictures executives were embarrassed when 170,000 emails were hacked and revealed snarky comments about top acting talent and financial deals.
  • Use emoticons sparingly. Inserting a smiley face at the end of a serious business communication isn’t appropriate and can make you look unprofessional. Use them with friends, not business associates.
  • Don’t cc: Does everyone on the team need to receive every email about a project? It just clutters their mailboxes. Copy only those with a “need to know” and not “nice to know.”
  • Spare the humor. Jokes are fine to share with friends. However, humor doesn’t translate into every language and you risk offending someone from another culture who doesn’t get the joke.
  • Check your grammar. Put the same care into writing an email as you do writing a business letter or document. Be sure the content is grammatically correct and avoid using jargon and slang.

Email is the most common form of communication in business. How you present yourself can either enhance or detract from your personal brand.

Do you want to be known as a professional who always responds promptly, or get bad marks from your client because he never gets a response? You know the answer to that question.

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