Modern Etiquette: E-mail etiquette at work and home

Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:47am EST
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By Anna Post

BURLINGTON, Vermont (Reuters Life!) - Businesses live and breathe by email. It's no longer uncommon to work regularly with people you've never met, with the interactions carried out entirely through calls and email.

Whether you think this is good or bad, it's here to stay, and how you compose an email speaks to your professionalism, reliability, and image, and it represents, by extension, your company or place of work.


Formality used to be a given in business correspondence, but no longer. Follow the same pattern in an email that you would face-to-face if your new client has been introduced to you as Brian, or if that is what the rest of the team calls him, you don't need to revert to Mr. Carson in a follow-up email. But the reverse also applies: until asked to call him Brian, stick with Mr. Carson. When in doubt, defer to the formal: use Mr. for men, Ms. for women. It's far easier to respond to, "Oh, call me Kara," than, "Actually, it's Ms. Pomerantz."

Hello and Goodbye.

Most emails are only a few lines at most, but the recipient is still worth a salutation and closing: "Dear" remains both standard and formal, "Hello" is professional and friendly, "Hi" is casual and conversational. Avoid "Hey"; it may sound jaunty to some, but to others it can read as a verbal jab. There are a multitude of options for closings. When in doubt "Sincerely" or "Regards" are both safe bets. Other variations on this theme include, "Best regards," "Kind regards," "Best wishes," "Sincere regards," "Thank you," and "Many thanks," to name just a few. More casually are, "Take care" and "Talk soon."

When an email chain deepens, it's fine to drop greetings, as the tone is now a back-and-forth conversation.

Tricks of the Trade.   Continued...