Over the last few years, my passion for email etiquette seems to have ramped up a notch, or five. For a while, I was fairly confident I was conforming to many of the “best practices” of the modern world when it comes to email, but the last year or so has me questioning if now I’m old school in this arena.
One of my big personal rules is to reply to most emails within 24 hours, and while I’m not perfect of course, I do pretty well with that. However, just because I reply within 24 hours doesn’t mean I necessarily have the answer the other person is looking for, or time to offer the full response. When either is the case, I simply respond letting the person know I received their email, and I will get back to them by a certain date (usually within the same work week when possible). This gives me the freedom to respond in full at a later date, but also gives the sender the courtesy of knowing I am on it.
On the occasions when it does take me longer to respond, I thank the sender for their patience with my delayed response, instead of apologizing. As someone who chronically apologizes, I believe this positive spin also sounds more professional and sincere than an “I’m sorry”.
Today, I’ve found it is becoming more and more common to not get responses for days or even weeks at a time. In some cases, people just don’t respond at all, or it takes multiple follow-ups. This behavior is not just reserved for one age group or demographic; it’s across the board. I will add, though, it does seem to happen most often with people in C-suite and leadership-level positions. I find that maddening. How did you get to that level if you don’t give others the common courtesy of a reply, even if it is brief? Isn’t the core of our industry all about relationships?
Other Etiquette Tips + Thoughts
Those of you who have emailed with me know I tend to be casual, and use a lot of exclamation points. Believe it or not, that’s my toned-down version.
In the last few years, I’ve tried to shift from using “Hey Mark!” (too casual) to “Hi Mark –“ (more formal, but still friendly). I still throw exclamation points into the body of the email itself from time to time, but try to avoid them at the end of every darn sentence.
A recent article in Forbes concurs with “Hi” and even says “Hello” is too formal. (Gosh, so many rules around here!)
Here are a few other suggestions for 2021 email etiquette, according to Forbes:
- Avoid unnecessary reply-alls. Can I get a hallelujah here??
- Create a signature. Gone are the days of simply having your name and title. Today, you should have your name, title, company name, phone number, website, social media channels, and so on in your signature. Don’t be afraid to add a little personality as well, via a quote, or listing an accolade or award.
- Be thorough. No one likes getting answers to half of an email.
- Be clear and concise. This is another one I’ve had to learn over the years. As a writer, I have a tendency to send much longer and wordier emails than necessary. Over time, I’ve learned to be more succinct. Being more succinct increases chances of the recipient being able to digest and respond in a timely manner.
- Pick up the phone. Not getting a response? Too much to put in an email? You can still pick up the phone. I will be the first to admit this is an area where I struggle. As a writer, I’ve always found written communication easier for me, but also know sometimes a call is what it takes.
So there you have it. Email etiquette in 2021.
I’m curious if you agree, or not! What are the rules you hold yourself to, if any? What are your biggest peeves?
In good email health,
PS: The Forbes article I referenced also concurs with my 24-hour response rule. I’m looking at you, restorers.