Email Etiquette – Keep It Short and Formal

Living in a world dominated by short, quick, and coded messaging; it’s hard to refrain from speaking in colloquialisms and acronyms. And although such forms of writing have become common staples in today’s society, they are detrimental to maintaining formality in professional communication – especially email communication.

As a new intern at IGS, I find myself contentiously avoiding such informal forms of writing. Before I hit send, I’m constantly asking myself whether or not the email or communication I am about to send is professional or meets email etiquette guidelines.

According to a McKinsey Global Institute study, 28% of an average work week is regularly dedicated to reading and answering emails. Even though this is my first communication internship, I have seen first-hand the importance of well written and clear emails in order to maintain efficiency and respect others time.

Ask yourself this: How many times do you re-read your email messages before you send them? Better yet, do you re-read them at all?

Although we live in a “click-and-go” society, we believe that it is imperative to transmit your professional etiquette to all forms of communication, whether internal or client communication or deliverables. At IGS, we adhere to the following email etiquette guidelines and encourage you to consider them as well.

  1. QC Everything. Whether it’s an extensive email going to a client or a short internal email, we encourage our employees to quality control (QC) all communication before hitting the send button. Email is more than just a form of communication – it can also be used as a legal document of record. This being the case, it is important to re-read and fact-check all information before sending it.  
  2. Follow Protocol. At IGS, over half of our clients are government agencies. Therefore, we require our employees to abide by the appropriate government protocol when addressing our government clients, including how to address an email and how to abbreviate military titles. Military protocol can be found online.
  3. Spell It Out. At IGS, we abide by AP style in all forms of communication – even email. In doing so, we do not use colloquialisms and jargon. We do not use acronyms on first reference unless we are positive that the person retrieving the message will be familiar with the acronym. By doing this, our staff is able to ensure that we are communicating efficiently and clearly.
  4. When In Doubt – Wait To Send. A downside to written communication is that the message can be interpreted or read out of context. If you find your email is emotionally chartered or if you are cognizant that your email could be read out of context, it is always best to wait and have someone else read it before you send it.

In our fast-paced world, time is precious, but presentation is crucial as well. Next time you send an email, try taking a moment to make sure that what you are writing meets email etiquette guidelines. Keep it short, but always keep it formal. 

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