6 Friendly Reminders about Email Etiquette
Tired of inbox overload? Do your part to reduce email traffic by adhering to basic email etiquette and adopting these three strategic habits recommended by Harvard Business Review.
The instinct to manage only our personal inbox is insufficient—the solution begins with protecting other people’s inboxes, according to Adaira Landry, MD MEd, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s hospital, and Resa E. Lewiss, MD, a professor of Emergency Medicine and Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “When everyone does it, it leads to what we call a compassionate email culture, where teams work together to reduce the overall email traffic,” Landry and Lewiss write. “Shift the focus: prioritize each other.”
Start with basic email etiquette:
Focus on your recipient list before you hit send. Does everyone really need to be on the message?
Write succinctly. The content of every message should be clear and straight to the point: What’s the question or the request you need approved?
Apply situational awareness. Does this conversation need to happen over email? Should it be a phone or video call instead? Could you get your message across during the next conversation or regularly scheduled meeting?
In addition to following basic email etiquette, Landry and Lewiss recommend embracing these habits:
Use BCC appropriately. The BCC is often seen as a way to send secret messages or allow someone to monitor communication. Landry and Lewiss consider this practice unprofessional, disrespectful, and unfair. However, they affirm BCC should be used for email that does not require communication directly between recipients—such as group messages. Using BCC reduces the number of reply-all responses that can clutter inboxes. When using the BCC line, it is important to list who is receiving the email in the salutation, such as “Hi First Name and First Name” or “Hi Management Team.” This practice creates trust, clarity, and psychological safety and protects recipients who don’t want their email addresses shared.
Send emails during work hours. Time your email delivery during the recipients’ work hours. Business hours vary, but it’s usually safe to assume they are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Off-hour messages might compel recipients to reply in the moment, creating a domino effect. You should take this advice into consideration when the recipient is out of the office. “If your colleague is on vacation or family leave, mind the rules and give them space by postponing the email,” Landry and Lewiss write. “Respecting the clock means upholding your team’s boundaries.”
Schedule messages and meetings. Use your email platform’s scheduling feature to send messages during business hours. If your system does not have a scheduling feature, consider a plug-in. You can also your email platform to scheduling meetings and reduce to back-and-forth communications caused by messages that begin with, “Can we meet next week?” You also can avoid unnecessary back-and-forth meeting request threads by stating when you are available and asking your colleague to confirm the time. Once confirmed, you don’t have to reply—simply send a calendar invite with links and any relevant documents to reference to avoid another email.