Email Refresher

By Meredith Lepley on October 3rd, 2016

Etiquette Enhances Productivity and Business Relationships

What is up with people?” a client asked me last month. I laughed and said, “Well, you’ll need to give me more information before I can tackle that one.” She had sent multiple email messages to both business associates, former and current clients with no response. This had been happening so frequently that she’d started keeping a list of people who had not responded to routine messages, and she was exasperated by their perceived rudeness. In fact, I’ve heard many complaints that business people do not apply the etiquette they live by in their personal lives to their business lives… and that’s a shame.

The business world runs on communication, email specifically these days. A lack of good communication hinders productivity and effectiveness and can damage relationships. Here are a few email errors I’ve run across in my consulting over the past few months and tips on how to avoid them.

Error: Not responding within a day

Problem: When there is no reply, the sender does not know whether or not the message was received and spends time wondering why there is no response.

Suggested Solution: Always respond within 24 hours, even if just to explain that you received the message and will reply in full when you have more time to do so. There is never a good reason not to respond. If you’re not replying due to conflict or a problem, address it professionally. But don’t just not respond.


Error: An empty subject line

Problem: I had a client whose coworker emailed her several times a day and never included a subject line. It drove her crazy, because she frequently had to refer back to various messages yet had tremendous difficulty finding the messages she needed quickly thus wasting precious time.

Suggested Solution: Add a subject line that accurately describes the content of your message.


Error: Replying to all

Problem: Our email boxes are full, and nobody wants to waste time reading a message that is not relevant to them or their work.

Suggested Solution: Avoid replying to all unless everyone needs to know the content of this message. (If your organization has a culture of fear in which people copy everyone as a form of protection, consider getting help changing the culture.)


Error: Using humor or sarcasm

Problem: Humor and sarcasm usually don’t translate well over email and can lead to misunderstandings or worse.

Suggested Solution: Save the humor for face-to-face conversations where facial expressions are visible and better able to convey the real meaning behind these messages.


Error: Typos and sloppiness

Problem: People judge others based on a variety of things, and potential clients may base their impressions of you upon your communications. If your writing is sloppy and replete with typos and grammatical errors, you may appear unprofessional and hinder your chances of making a deal.

Suggested Solution: Proofread your messages! Present your most professional self to those receiving your messages.


Error: Sending a message to someone you actually did not want to read it!

Problem: I’ll never forget the loud gasp and the look or horror on a colleague’s face when he realized he’d sent a message commiserating about a board member directly to that board member instead of to his intended recipient.

Suggested Solution: To avoid sending messages to unintended people, write the message body first and address it just right before sending.

Following these simple tips will foster business relationships of professionalism, efficiency and trust. For more tips, contact us at