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Email  Etiquette- Dealmaker or Breaker?

Janine Carley-James

"This is the one to avoid!" your hostess says to you, pointing to a red-faced man in the corner.  His jacket is rumpled, and he has sauce dripping down his face. He's clearly drunk!  When he approaches you he's gabbling, incoherent and he won't stop talking.  You want him to go away.  You're tempted to ask "How did you get to be such a foolish old bore?"  but you’re too polite. You wait for him to refresh his drink and you’re off, a silver shadow zooming towards another group.  You won’t be calling him the highlight of your night!  And you definitely wouldn’t do any business with him!

Fortunately these days, unlike the 80’s, social networking is an element of business etiquette and not the be-all, end-all.  We very often use emails to connect with potential clients or coordinate projects.  Our emails represent us in the way our networking skills used to. 

Think of the emails you have received in the past.  They create an impression, don't they?  And some are as unappealing as the incoherent, boring man at the party.  Fortunately, with emails, there is no need to pull your silver phantom act and escape.  You can simply press the delete button, and it's gone – out of sight, out of mind!

You might be comfortable deleting the unprofessional, messy, or long and involved emails others send you, but you wouldn’t want people to delete yours; that's the rub. This is why learning email etiquette is so important.

Your goal, as a writer, is to communicate clearly and concisely, while remaining professional at all times. But a great email will also make the other person feel important.


"Dear James, 

I hope you are well.  Thank you very much for your interest in our new research program.  We would like to invite you to a dinner where you could meet our leading investors.  We could then share more about our current goals and the achievements we have made in the past.  

Yours sincerely

Curious Kate"


Sends the right message, while:


"Dear James,

Hope you are well!  Soz for the late reply, but thanks anyway for the reminder!  Yes, we’d love for you to participate in our project!  Get out your running shoes and don’t be slow about it! it's time to buy every child a pet turtle!

Love ya!


simply does not!


Email etiquette builds your credibility and encourages your clients to trust you.


You may have all the good intentions in the world, but your recipients have probably not spent enough time with you to share a coffee, get to know you and understand your work ethic.  Without knowing you, they will be prone to prejudice.  Any mistakes in email etiquette will leave you prejudged as incompetent.  If your prospective clients do know you, they may love you to bits, see you as fun-loving or warm and friendly, but they probably won’t see you as professional.  Your clients may feel uncomfortable about it.  They probably won’t mention it to you.  Yet your lack of professionalism will become a self-fulfilling deal breaker. 

Creating a professional impression is obviously a good thing.  It goes along with excellent self-presentation. Nobody wants to look like a scruffy, lumpy, badly coordinated mess.  We all want to look and smell nice.  So, while presenting yourself, you wouldn't want your emails to be any different. By being polite, engaging and articulate, you'll create an excellent impression.  Does this mean our society isn't as inclusive, liberal or all accepting as we think it is?  Yes, it does.  We might not want to, but we jump to conclusions about people very quickly.

Email etiquette is not about airs or graces.  It isn't about adopting a series of affectations or style choices which ruin the spontaneity of your work.  It is about polishing it off.  It's about keeping our options open while treating other people with respect.  Write your emails as though the person on the other side matters and they will begin to think you matter. We can be articulate and spontaneous, no matter what walk of life we come from.  Putting our best foot forward gives us a better chance of forming long lasting business relationships and achieving our goals.

Creating a professional first impression will let potential clients or colleagues know that they have come to the right place!  

Whether you are seeking to improve yourself or members of your team, enrol on my online email course (in conjunction with Chartall College) and invest in your brand.