It’s no longer considered crazy to wear jeans in the workplace or grab drinks with your boss after hours, but when it comes to using emojis in an email, the lines get a little blurrier.
It can be difficult to navigate the ins and outs of professional email etiquette. But it’s most likely the main way you connect with your boss and co-workers (besides, you know, in person). And that means every message you send is a chance to make a good impression...or a bad one.
Here are nine rules of work email you must follow—if you want to keep your online reputation intact.
1. Start With a Solid Subject Line
If you’re sending an email to one of your superiors, keep in mind that they likely have hundreds of messages in their inbox.
So what does your boss do with most of them? Either press delete or star them for later (and never actually read them). That means you only have one chance to get their attention: An enticing subject line can help ensure they actually open it.
2. Watch Your Words
Have you ever received a text message that ended with a period? If so, you probably thought the person who sent it to you was mad at you (even though they were really just trying to use correct punctuation).
That’s because the kinds of words you use can instantly appease or upset someone. Avoid using words like “hey” or “urgent” and use “you” or “today” instead. (Confused? More explanation below.)
3. Write Like an Editor
You may not be writing a college paper, but that doesn’t mean you’re not getting graded. Bad grammar, spelling mistakes, and even a lack of an introduction, body, and conclusion make you sound as though you’re trying to get to inbox zero, not be a responsible employee.
4. Be Courteous of the Person’s Time
If you’re going to send someone an email, tell them why you’re sending it.
If, for example, you’re attaching a presentation, tell them exactly what you want their next steps to be (Do you need their approval? Do you want them to add a slide?). If you’re going to CC someone, tell them why they’ve been included.
5. Use Emojis Cautiously
Here’s the thing about emojis: Not everyone’s a fan of them. Even if you work in a casual environment, there’s still a significant percent of the working population that views them as unprofessional. Don’t risk it if you’re unsure how it’ll be received.
6. Attach the Attachment
It sounds obvious, but we’ve all been guilty of this email violation on more than one occasion.
Check before you press send: Did you attach the attachment you said you would attach? (Say that 10 times fast.)
7. Nail Your Sign-Off (Without the Usual “Best”)
You have to end your email by signing-off, but that doesn’t mean you have to say “best” or “thanks” at the end of every message (especially if you don’t actually have anything to be thankful for).
Instead, opt for a salutation that’s professional, yet functional. Try “regards,” “respectfully,” or “I’ll speak with you soon.”
8. Use a Professional Signature (Even on Your Phone)
If you’ve just crafted a professional, well-written email, why would you want to end it with “Sent from my iPhone”? Instead, choose a simple, engaging signature that includes your title, your social media profiles, your website, and maybe even a picture of your face.
9. Know When Not to Send an Email
Of course, no matter how good your etiquette is, it’s all for naught if you’re emailing something you shouldn’t be.
For example, if you need a super-fast response from someone, call them instead. And if you want to ask your boss for a raise, schedule a meeting (you don’t want to have that conversation over email).
So long as you follow these nine rules, you’ll almost always get your emails read and responded to. And hey, you just might make a good impression on your boss while you’re at it!