Marc Jenkins

on freelancing, productivity, tech and more

How to send emails without looking like an ass

Here are the rules I hold myself to when using email. It is, afterall, the little things that make a difference.

  • When composing an email, start by addressing the person’s name. Start with ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ to make it friendly and conversational.
  • Check the spelling of their name. We all make mistakes, so check their name when they return your email. Make sure you fix it then and don’t repeatedly spell it wrong; this just makes you look rude and obnoxious.
  • Sign your emails with your name. Including your telephone number and your title/role isn’t a bad idea, either.
  • If you’re sending emails from a mobile, have a seperate signature to indicate that. Something like ‘Sent from mobile – please excuse typos and auto corrects’ could save a lot of embarrassment.
  • Keep emails short and sweet. Small talk is fine if you keep it brief. Get to the point: I don’t have time to read an essay.
  • Make use of the subject field and clearly indicate what the email is about. Please don’t send an email with the subject line ‘hi’.
  • Make your actions clear. Do you want me to do something? Explicitly say that.
  • Never send an email and expect an immediate reply. Email is not a replacement for instant messaging. In fact, I try and keep my email closed for most of the day. If it’s important, pick up the phone.
  • Do you really need to send another email? Is there a better way to communicate? Could you IM, phone or put it elsewhere?
  • Only cc in those who need to know about the contents of the email. That’s probably not the whole office.
  • Never bcc unless absolutely necessary. I’ve probably only bcc’d someone once or twice in my career. Be open and honest.
  • Never send read receipts. It’s annoying and I never let someone else know when I’ve read their email.
  • Never send emails when you’re angry or upset. Compose an email without the recipient in the to field (so you don’t accidentally send it) and then leave it, preferably a day if you can.
  • Remember that the recipient can’t read your body language. Humour or sarcasm rarely works in email.
  • If someone does something for you, it’s easy to archive or delete the email. Sending a quick thank-you note goes a long way.
  • Just try to be considerate and nice.

What do you think? Have I missed anything?

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Hi, I'm Marc Jenkins. I run a small WordPress consultancy called 16BY9—I'm available for hire if you need WordPress expertise. I write about freelancing, productivity, tech and more.