5 email etiquette tips to follow in the new year (and beyond)

5 email etiquette tips to follow in the new year (and beyond)

Do the little red circles on your iPhone stress you out and give you more anxiety than preparing for the SATs did?

If you’re a publicist, chances are these stress-icons -- I mean, notifications -- can sometimes raise your blood pressure more than training for that 5K you made a New Year’s resolution to attempt to do.

As smartphones become more advanced and prevalent in our society, the more connected we become. Which means one thing: We receive more emails. (Ok, it means lots of things -- social media addiction, increased cases of carpal tunnel, lots of bandaids from swiping on broken screens -- but for the purpose of this post, it’s just one thing: Emails!)

Email has become the major form of communication in the professional world. No one picks up the phone anymore -- heck, I stare at mine with a look of horror and shock when it rings, wondering if the person calling is secretly hoping it’ll go to voicemail. In reality though, email is just easier: You can connect with multiple people at once, you can draft and re-draft what you want to say, and you have a record of what was said.

Because of the ease of email, the amount we receive, read, send, and delete has increased dramatically. This in turn has increased not only the amount of unnecessary emails, but the amount of email files we sift through/keep, as well as the number of death circles -- whoops, notifications -- we receive on our phones.

In 2018, let’s take back our time and our energy wasted on emails with these five etiquette tips.

1. Stop being so nice

Take a minute and go into your “sent” folder and review the past week of emails you sent.

How many of them were simply a “thank you” or “OK” email? Now go into your “delete” folder and do the same thing. These are what I like to call "Unnecessary Emails."

Unnecessary Emails are normally sent because you asked someone to send you something, they did, so you thank them. Or they ask you to send them something, and you reply acknowledging the request (but not yet fulfilling it).

In 2018, stop with the Unnecessary Emails. When you sent your original ask, chances are you concluded the email with a “thank you” already. This should suffice, and a second email simply saying thanks isn’t needed (Exception: if they’re sending you a huge file where they’re worried it might not go through, then saying you received it is OK).

If you stop the Unnecessary Emails, you not only save time having to send it, you save your colleague time from having to delete it. We already receive too many emails -- having to come back from a meeting to 10 new messages, where half are “Thank you” or “OK” is just agitating.

2. Delayed responses

If you’re taking a PR 101 course, this is probably the exact opposite of what your textbook says. But sometimes, waiting to reply to an email is the best way to handle a situation. (Note: I find this to be the case more-so in an internal PR role rather than an agency, where you’re surrounded by other PR-types who “get you.”)

For example, many times emails are pre-emptively sent with incorrect details, questions to be hashed out, etc. Publicists are the type that always reply right away, pointing out inconsistencies and asking a lot of questions -- which means there’s a chance our colleagues find us annoying, even though we were going for thorough. Maybe chill for a bit and wait to chime in. Other departments on the thread may end up answering your questions or clarifying the information, which will help not label you as annoying.

Delaying your response can also help when your colleagues think you’re Google. You know who I’m talking about: The ones that always ask you something they could have easily searched for in three minutes instead. Sure, you can be nice and always respond to them -- but they won’t learn and you will have permanently become their Google.

3. Properly reply to email threads

For those of you who don’t know what it is, an email thread is when you have three or more people on one email together, and everyone is chiming in. Most people start at the first email (so the one farthest in the past) and work their way up to the most present one. While this is how email threads should be read, it is not how email threads should be replied to!  

Read the entire thread through before replying to any of it. This not only saves you from looking dumb asking a question someone answers two emails in, it also saves everyone else on the thread from receiving an Unnecessary Email (see above).

Exception: There are instances where people are all replying at the same time. Unless you have magical powers and know that someone seven offices down is replying at the same time you are, it’s an unavoidable and understandable circumstance.

More thread tips

  • Always think before you forward an entire thread to someone not on the original chain. And re-read what’s in the chain -- aka make sure it doesn’t talk sh-t about the person you’re forwarding it to!
  • And if you're starting a new topic, just start a new email thread. Don't change the subject line in the thread and start a new topic, especially if the first one is still being discussed. Many people skip over the subject line and go right to the body of the email -- all you're doing is confusing people.

4. Can I start a GoFundMe for a “no reply all” option?

Whoever invents the “No Reply All” option for emails will be my new savior. I will follow that person across the country, drink any kool-aid they give me, give them my first-born, and kneel down before them singing, “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy,” in my best Mike Myers impression.

So in 2018, ask yourself if you really need to reply all before doing so. I do need to know if your answer affects my work; I don’t need to know what your lunch order is when Jane emails the team asking what everyone wants -- but you enjoy that kale smoothie as I dive into this cheesecake!

5. Disconnect yourself

Last year, I read about how Arianna Huffington implemented a policy where her employees’ emails were automatically deleted while they were on vacation. I think this idea is brilliant! Having email on our phones means we’re always accessible -- but that’s not the healthiest way to live. You need to have time to disconnect.

Even if you’re not on vacation, but find yourself replying to emails at 10 p.m., think to yourself “Can this wait until I’m back in the office tomorrow morning”? I get it -- we’re publicists and media and sometimes we have emergencies and deadlines we need to deal with in real time. But more often than not, there isn’t a dire need to reply to a nonessential email while trying to enjoy a dinner with friends or date with our S.O. Go ahead -- disconnect.

The world won’t stop if you don’t get to every message within minutes.

Bonus tip

Are you an email hoarder? That’s rhetorical -- we work in media -- of course we all are! Try organizing your emails into an easy-to-follow folder-system. This can help you pull up old information quickly without having to search through an Inbox of thousands and thousands of messages.

What other email tips would you add? Let us know on Twitter!

Lindsay Salandra (@lindsaysalandra) has worked in entertainment public relations for six years in New York City. She loves to travel, eat, bargain hunt, and pet any puppy that will allow her to.

Photo via Pixabay

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