The average US employee spends about a quarter of the work week combing through the hundreds of emails we all send and receive every day.
But despite the fact that we're glued to our reply buttons, career coach Barbara Pachter says plenty of professionals still don't know how to use email appropriately.
In fact, because of the sheer volume of messages we're reading and writing each day, we may be more prone to making embarrassing errors — and those mistakes can have serious professional consequences.
Pachter outlines the basics of modern email etiquette in her book "The Essentials Of Business Etiquette." We pulled out the most essential rules you need to know.
1. Include a clear, direct subject line.
Examples of a good subject line include "Meeting date changed," "Quick question about your presentation," or "Suggestions for the proposal."
"People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line," Pachter says. "Choose one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues."
2. Use a professional email address.
If you work for a company, you should use your company email address. But if you use a personal email account — whether you are self-employed or just like using it occasionally for work-related correspondences — you should be careful when choosing that address, Pachter says.
You should always have an email address that conveys your name so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. Never use email addresses (perhaps remnants of your grade-school days) that are not appropriate for use in the workplace, such as "[email protected]" or "[email protected]" — no matter how much you love a cold brew.
3. Think twice before hitting 'reply all.'
No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting "reply all" unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email, Pachter says.
4. Use professional salutations.
Don't use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, "Hey you guys," "Yo," or "Hi folks."
"The relaxed nature of our writings should not affect the salutation in an email," she says. "Hey is a very informal salutation and generally it should not be used in the workplace. And Yo is not okay either. Use Hi or Hello instead."
She also advises against shortening anyone's name. Say "Hi Michael," unless you're certain he prefers to be called "Mike."
5. Reply to your emails — even if the email wasn't intended for you.
It's difficult to reply to every email message ever sent to you, but you should try to, Pachter says. This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. A reply isn't necessary but serves as good email etiquette, especially if this person works in the same company or industry as you.
Here's an example reply: "I know you're very busy, but I don't think you meant to send this email to me. And I wanted to let you know so you can send it to the correct person."
6. Proofread every message.
Your mistakes won't go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. "And, depending upon the recipient, you may be judged for making them," Pachter says.
Don't rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.
"One supervisor intended to write 'Sorry for the inconvenience,'" Pachter says. "But he relied on his spell-check and ended up writing 'Sorry for the incontinence.'"
“一个主管本来想写‘造成不便深感抱歉’('Sorry for the inconvenience’)，但他太相信他的拼写检查程序，结果写成了‘尿失禁深感抱歉’(Sorry for the incontinence)。”
7. Add the email address last.
"You don't want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message," Pachter says. "Even when you are replying to a message, it's a good precaution to delete the recipient's address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent."
8. Double-check that you've selected the correct recipient.
Pachter says to pay careful attention when typing a name from your address book on the email's "To" line. "It's easy to select the wrong name, which can be embarrassing to you and to the person who receives the email by mistake."
9. Keep your fonts classic.
Purple Comic Sans has a time and a place (maybe?), but for business correspondence, keep your fonts, colors, and sizes classic.
Purple Comic Sans也许曾风靡一时，但对于商务信函来说，字体、颜色和大小应沿用经典样式。
The cardinal rule: Your emails should be easy for other people to read.
"Generally, it is best to use 10- or 12- point type and an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman," Pachter advises. As for color, black is the safest choice.
“一般地，最好使用10或12的字号，并选用易于阅读的字体，如Arial,，Calibri或者Times New Roman，”帕切特建议。至于颜色，黑色是最为安全的选择。
10. Nothing is confidential — so write accordingly.
Always remember what former CIA chief General David Petraeus apparently forgot, warns Pachter: Every electronic message leaves a trail.
"A basic guideline is to assume that others will see what you write," she says, "so don't write anything you wouldn't want everyone to see." A more liberal interpretation: Don't write anything that would be ruinous to you or hurtful to others. After all, email is dangerously easy to forward, and it's better to be safe than sorry.