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Modern Email Etiquette: How Has It Changed In The Last 5 Years?

by Alina Berdichevsky
Posted: February 07, 2016

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When email first came about, it was a game changing and convenient mode of communication. Words and messages became instant. Imagine, no more days waiting for a snail letter to arrive or deal with bulky and noisy faxes.

However, the advent of smartphones in the last five years has changed our communication styles, with message notifications (and their senders) living constantly in our pockets.

So it’s no surprise that questions arise about how to handle this new influx of conversation. How do you remain socially connected, professional and polite without offending or allowing email communications to consume your life?

Here are Open Colleges’ latest smart email etiquette rules you need to know in 2016:

1. Don’t check your e-mail messages in public places (or cars!)

That includes elevators, restaurants or, heaven forbid, footpaths. Firstly, being glued to your phone interrupts you from real-time, genuine social conversations. Strike up a conversation with the people around you instead who knows who you’ll meet riding in a busy CBD elevator? Secondly, it’s impolite to the people around you when you barely acknowledge them and stare at your phone like a zombie. Being a slave to your phone in public spaces is also downright unsafe. How many times have you bumped into someone walking, nose deep in their phone? And don't even think about emailing while driving. Check your email at designated, private times and break away from the unproductive pull of constant technology worship.

2. Use your auto-reply like it’s your PA

If you’re not available, let people know when you’ll be checking back in so they know when to expect communication. Do you only check your email at set times? Let your people know. Away from your desk for the day? Let senders know. Auto-responders that highlights your email-friendly hours that are constantly left on are becoming increasingly popular. This allows you the space to do what you need without being tied to the inbox and allows others to manage expectations at their end.

3. Don’t email people late at night

Frankly, a 1am email from your boss or colleague can border on unnerving and unprofessional. Yes, we know we all sleep with our phones, but keep business conversations to working hours. If you’re having a late-night burst of inspiration, save it in drafts and send it in the morning. 8am - 8pm are workable email professional hours. Switch off after that and don't feel obliged to reply to those midnight strategy emails either.

4. Don’t be overly friendly or familiar

Social media can make us all feel like best friends and that we know perfect strangers better than we should. The ‘suggested friends’ functions on Facebook and LinkedIn are both guilty of that! Yes, digital communication keeps voice and tone out of our messages, but that doesn't mean that you need to go nuts on the emojis and smiley faces to convey your friendliness or enthusiasm. In a professional format, err on the side of formality and don't be afraid to address recipients as Dear John (or otherwise).

5. Mind your subject line

With smart phones, email boxes are becoming even more cluttered so you need to be wiser with your subject line if you want to achieve readership and cut-through. You don’t need to sound like you’re writing for CLEO magazine, but ensure your headlines convey more than just “hello” or “next week”. To ensure your email is noticed, opened and read, get to the point about why you’re writing (in 6 words or less). “6 tips for the Apex meeting” and “proposed strategy draft for Smython” are all good subject lines because they are easy to be found in the search bar later.

As you can see, email etiquette in 2016 is about setting boundaries, managing expectations and being clear and cohesive in your messaging. At the end of the day, email is still a professional tool, so managing the conversation with finesse will ensure your brand and knowledge always gets heard.

Read more on our guide to Email Etiquette.


Alina Berdichevsky

Alina a writer, communications consultant, brand lover, cultural excavator and an expert on strategic achievement. Alina has delivered strategic content and digital solutions for a variety of organisations across numerous sectors including fashion, business, luxury and not-for-profit.

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