4 Email Etiquette Tips and Why They're Important.

By Affilorama Group
4 Email Etiquette Tips and Why They're Important.


We all know that has email revolutionized communication, both for business and in our personal lives. And while applications like Skype and MSN Chat, Twitter and Facebook are providing new channels with which to connect with people around the world, for most of us email is still the primary means of communication. So why, I must ask, are so many people SO BAD AT IT?!

I have about 15 personal and professional email accounts all up, so I get my fair share of email. But it never ceases to amaze me how poorly some people write their correspondence. Now I'm not talking about the quick one-line emails that you send to friends, family or close colleagues at work. What concerns me are the emails from people I don't know that start with “Hi There!!!!” (yep, exclamation marks included), and use subject lines like “HELP!!” or my personal favorite “Hello” - if they even bother with a subject at all. Although these things seem like minor niggles compared with say, the impact of the global financial crisis on your business, they are actually much more important than they first appear. The language and presentation of your emails gives the reader a very strong impression of your professionalism and general abilities. To me, a sloppy email suggests a sloppy person – and not someone with whom I really want to build any sort of business relationship. Worst of all, first impressions last - even email ones.

Even if you’re not the world’s greatest writer, you should still learn how to write effective emails. It’s absolutely essential if you want people to take you seriously. The most successful affiliate marketers spend a great deal of time engaging in communication and building relationships with affiliate managers, merchants, online marketers and other affiliates. They did not build these relationships and their success with “Hi There!!!!” emails.

Here are four really simple tips that will go a long way to increase the overall professionalism of your emails. They may seem rather obvious, but I can't tell you how many emails I get that fail to achieve them.

1. The subject line is for what it says it's for!

If I can't tell what your email is about from the subject line, then why am I going to waste my time looking at it when even you don’t appear to take it seriously? The more specific and concise your subject, the better: “Phone call” is okay, but “JV Skype call meeting time and agenda” is best. If you're covering multiple points in an email, your subject should state the overriding theme of the message. Don’t forget too that a good subject line also makes it easier for people to search and locate your email in the future.

2. Use a signature

Virtually every email program I know of allows you to create an email signature – a small block of text that appears at the bottom of all your email messages and replies. Why is this important? It immediately gives the reader the impression that you are a professional – and people like dealing with professionals. What's more, a comprehensive signature includes lots of useful information that the reader can use to either contact you or find out more about you (this is really important if you are approaching someone you've never met or talked to before). Your signature should include your full name, company name, position (if applicable), website, and email address. Depending on your preference, you can also include phone number(s) and fax. I've also seen signatures with Twitter or Linkedin links. These are OK if they suit your style of business, but it’s best not to make your signature too long - 5 or 6 lines at most. Some people use graphics and HTML in their signatures, but this is not something I recommend because many email clients still block HTML, which means it’ll just look a mess.

3. Know who you're talking to

I admit, this can be easier said than done. Some businesses just use generic info@... email addresses, which makes addressing your message to someone difficult. However, I have found that taking the extra time to poke around and find a person's email address always pays off – provided I write them a professional and worthwhile email. I once had a big debate with my business communications professor about using first or last names and the upshot is: I think it’s an individual call. Personally, I’ve always started messages with “Hi First-name”. I might use title and last name if they have a distinguished title – for example a doctor or elected official. In this case I’ll write the email more like a traditional formal letter, with “Dear Mr/Doctor/Rt Hon/etc. Last-name”. That said, some people will disagree (including my comms teacher). It depends on who you are emailing, what you are emailing about and where you are emailing to – cultural norms can vary between countries.

Under certain circumstances I have guessed people's email addresses, as most companies use the same email format across all addresses. However I must advise extreme caution when using this technique – most people who don't have their email address easily accessible have done so for a reason. If you genuinely have something important or of interest to this person, then it can be worth a try, but whatever you do, do not just send them a generic email that you've sent to a dozen other people. If you take the time to find someone's email, then take the time to write them an individual message.

If you can't find someone's direct address, I advise sending a message to the generic website address with the first line of the email reading “Attention: Name of person you want to talk to”. If you don't know the name of the person you need to talk to, then there’s the old fall-back: “To whom it may concern”. It might be a bit old fashioned, but it tends to go down better than “Hi There”.

4. Write like it's your only chance – usually it is

The problem with the ease and immediacy of email is that it's all too easy to whip up a quick email and send it off without thinking too hard about what you’ve written. This is very dangerous. Taking a little bit extra time to read over what you've just written can save you from some embarrassing mistakes. Recently I was sending out emails to some important contacts – the message to each was pretty much the same, and after writing about 6 individually, I started to copy and paste the message and change the name. I was in a hurry and didn't read over it again and as a result, I sent a message to an important contact addressed to the wrong name. Fortunately the contact was very understanding when I apologized, but you can't count on being that lucky. Sometimes that can be all it takes to lose a potential lead/client/partnership.

Also attempt to write clearly, concisely and in a professional but friendly tone. Don't be demanding or arrogant – this can be really easy to do accidentally. What might seem business-like and matter-of-fact to you may come across as irritating and belligerent to the reader. If it's an especially important email, it may be worth forwarding it to a friend or colleague first just to be sure. You just can't count on the reader being in the same state of mind as you are when you write it. Most important of all, use your manners! If you're asking someone for something, then say “thank you” in advance. If you're telling them about a problem, be polite – understand that it probably wasn't the person or company's intention to cause your difficulty. A bit of empathy goes a long way to making people go that little bit further to help you out. Even if you have to be firm, you can still be respectful.

I hope you've found these tips useful. I'd be really interested in what you think of my ideas about email. Do you agree or disagree? Have you got any email horror stories? (They're always fun!) Let me know in the comments.

Hendry Lee 15 years ago
A subject line is like the headline of the sales letter. Nowadays people only scan the subject lines before even previewing or reading the email.

Even it is a personal email, people sometimes miss it unless the subject line is clear.

You're right that as a communication tool, we ought to make email more effective by spending some time to get it right.
Jorge Luis 15 years ago
Gee gyus, thanks for the advise.

Now I know how to improve my email writing.

Best Regards from Perú
Sergio Sanchez 15 years ago
I believe this is one of the best e-mails I have received in the past year. Thank you very mush
Ulla MM H 15 years ago
Thanks this is information that will save me from future headache..
Mani Nagappan 15 years ago
Hi Mark Ling,

I first of all thank you for writing a newsletter about "Email Etique". It realy helped to know my mistakes what we are doing in urgency. Point 4 "Write like it's your only chance – usually it is" it will help all affiliates when they are communicating with their affiliate managers.

Few more tips we request to provide which will be helpful like "how to write autoresponder emails" to unknown person or company when we are out of our computer.

Mani Nagappan,

arturo dini 15 years ago
After having surfed many times.I did not understood WHAT I HAVE TO DO!Please explain and give
me your email address.I asked for explainations more than once.but without any result!
I am brand new of this business and without your instructions I am not able to work.
Please give me a "step by step"program in order to make me start!!!
[email protected]
Terrance Charles 15 years ago
Yes, email marketing is still one of the best forms of marketing. I always say, include a story cause people love story, make it personal, and always use WIIFM (What's In It For Me) based emails and your response will be better, give value, build trust and the rest follows. Great post.

Terrance Charles
Cosmo 15 years ago
Nice! You are right, this is all common sense and yet most don't have a clue. This was of particular interest for me because I had just sent out a very important email and wanted to see if I adhered to the 4 points outlined here. It turns out I am a very common-sensical guy and was happy I did all the right things. One thing I'd like to add to these 4 points is that I think it is very important to really be kind and come across as happy. Sounding very understanding and reasonable is very important. Even if you are possibly a bit disgruntled with a problem and you are emailing someone about it (like tech support or something), coming across as very appreciative and thankful and understanding of where they are coming from can do wonders for you and what you'd like to accomplish. I always build people up in my emails and tell them how great they're doing and how much I appreciate them. I'm actually talking about laying it on thick because we ALL like to feel appreciated and without reservation. No one's gonna say this guy is brown nosing even if they think you are after you told them how awesome they are. They will finish reading the email with a good taste in their mouth. And thank you's are extremely important in my opinion. Always end with a "thank you for reading", or "thanks for your time and energy - I appreciate it"
I have noticed first hand that this always makes even the most grumpy person respond well to you.

Something else I'd like to add - I think of the subject line as a text field for keyword phrases relevant to the email (just the main points)

One more thing I do, if relevant, like if I have had prior contact with the person in person or otherwise, I make comments on the prior engagement. It's a little small talk that can go a long way. For example I'll make pleasant or funny remarks about whatever transpired between us or I'll thank them for their previous service if I can't think of anything else to say.

So, thanks for your blog Chris, it was really informative and so confirming of what I was already doing. It's nice to now be conscious of these points though, so now I can write even BETTER emails from now on because I'll not miss any of these important 4 points. Thanks for crystallizing it as such, very helpful.

Cosmo Keenan
Online Guitar Party Here:
Rich 15 years ago
Thank You for the tips Chris, I would only add that if you do send your email in html formatt
check to make sure your links work. My Aweber account lets me send a test email to myself. I see a lot of links that don't work in my mail, not only from newbies but even veteran marketers.
It's to bad because I usually just end up deleting them.
Stephen H 15 years ago
I really really appreciate this posting, as I'm ramping up to begin building a better more targeted email list and find this to be a very helpful post. Thanks a ton.
paulita 15 years ago
Although i don´t have any email horror story to tell i absolutely agree with you and i find your tips like the base, or the minimum to right correctly an email.
Jim Frohn 15 years ago
Excellent discourse on Email Etiquette. I agree with your comments. I get email that I trash immediately when I see some of the unbelievable subject lines sent to me. I think most of the ones I get, have authors who don't even bother to read their own subject lines, let alone the content of the email.

I get quite a few with no subject, no "To:" information, and yes, even some with no "From:" information. I don't know how they get delivered, but they get deleted right away!

Each of us has a limited amount of time to devote to email processing, and if emails are not written correctly, they will not be given much credibility or time.

An email tends to reflect the credibility and sincerity of the writer. If you are both credible and sincere, you need to present it in a way that shows through in your email.

I only deal with people who have enough of what I'm looking for, that shows through in there email. Written communication is a skill which every marketer needs to learn, to be effective in their presentation to potential customers and partners.

Virtually every sales page I read, makes me cringe, and it carries over in their emails.

If you need to learn more of the language skills for the language used in composing your emails, then do so. There are Community College courses available in most areas, designed for adults and held after hours.
And please, please use a spell checker whenever possible. (By the way, there is one built in to this "Add Comment" blog input, and I hope it works well. I would hate to be embarrassed after my comments here.)

There should to be an e-book on email writing, hey, that's a good idea for a niche market...

Maybe I'll get to work on that right now...

Jim Frohn
[email protected]
Anele, Chidera 15 years ago
Thr truth is if you are not communicating, you are not communicating. Typographical errors are not enough to put one off, let alone poor communicating subject lines.

A wake up call to all who cares to listen and more importantly a good write up.

Keep up the good job.
kalyn davis 15 years ago
Your email tips are great for dealing with business associates and some of these would also apply to writing sales letter emails but I would like to know more about writing sales letter emails.

My email horror story goes like this, no one on my list ever purchases anything! I even offer FREE things as an affiliate to ebook products and I've never been paid. Makes me wonder how I can check to see if I'm being duped.

The emails I've been using were part of a package I bought from a well known guru that said these emails were chalk full of "trigger" words that would make sales. The additional email's and broadcasts I've written are in more of a friendship style. Am I being too friendly?

So if the guru sales emails haven't worked and my style hasn't worked so far, I'm at a loss of what a sales email should be. I'd like more tips on writing sales emails so I can see what I'm doing wrong and how to write an email that converts to sales.

Thanks in advance for any and all help you throw my way.
Greg Lonien 15 years ago
I am sorry, I could not resist it.
But your exactly right. First impressions are often the only impression
we get a chance to make. I learned a lot from your thoughtful article and this is the last time
I will ever start an email this way.

Thanks a lot for sharing. !

Greg Lonien
Robot Trader
Roy Huddleston 15 years ago
I just thought I would add that people please use your spell checker. I know the subject line doesn't have a spell checker but if you are not sure than paste the word into the body text and see if you have it right or not.
I will delete anything I see with bad spelling. I just consider them to be an idiot and a waste of time.
ARIEF 15 years ago
Yes, I am missing out on important opportunities because of my email
style. I receive from Mark Ling about Chris has just written a really interesting post on 4 Email
Etiquette Tips Any Why They're Important.
I am beginner affiliate marketing and not so know yet how to step, I still affraid to work business it and so I bad in English Language. Sorry if my write to email or article difficult to mean to you. But I am working hard to it, step by step upgrade my write is good to mean to people in the world.
So I needs teach to Mark Ling . Can you help me to it?
Jason Dodd 15 years ago
Email campaigns are a really important part of your online marketing, so it's worth spending some time to get it right. I used to work for a big multinational software company before working at Affilorama and they were less than impressive with their efforts (images not linked, links to pages that werent finished, no spam testing or mail merge emailing with bad data and getting peoples name or gender wrong!) but they still made sales from it so imagine what you can do with something thats well crafted.

For everyone wanting to advance their online marketing efforts, Mark Ling does provide step by step (well week by week actually) training in his AffiloBlueprint 2.0 course that is a great investment for anyone who works in online marketing (week 7 is all about newsletters and building your list.)

Great post Chris
Brian Davis 15 years ago
Thanks, I will definitely need to know this. One thought I have, it is probably a good idea that you reward the person opening your email with some good free information included in the text.
Mary Elliot 15 years ago
Hi Chris,

A good post. What worries me about using {firstname} in autoresponder emails is that I'm never quite convinced they will get it right! I get so many emails that start 'Hey {firstname}' which I delete straight away, that I find it hard to believe that they're all people just not bothering!

Doug Parsons 15 years ago
Hello Chris,
I agree with you about good etiquette in emails as well as sales letters and ebooks. When I find a gramatical error or spelling error I spend so much time worrying about it that I tend to miss the sense of the article or email.

It would benefit everyone to pay more attention to their spelling and grammer. I know it is gradeschool stuff but some never learned it there as they should. For ones not versed in the English language I would recommend elance.com and hire someone to do it for them.

Keep up the good work, Chris. All of us need these tips and I thank you for them.

Doug Parsons
15 years ago
Hi Chris,
great article, but a little much from a conventional business point of view. What I miss in the article is passing some light on the matter of writing promotional emails to your list. E.g. how do I address an internet marketing or affiliate niche list, what will be different with a list to other niches like the health and beauty niche or the xyz niche. Some major Dos and Donts...
All The Best,

Ken at Ez-Biz 15 years ago
Thanks for the great tips, I am trying to put together a mailing list at Getresponse.com. I can put some of this information to good use now... I really liked #4

James 15 years ago
I also received those kind of emails. Worst that I received are those that contains broken links and you can see all those html codes in their emails. It's really annoying. Email is a powerful marketing strategy tool but if you do not do it right, it can really turn your recipients away.
Tony Wang 15 years ago
After reading this advise, I started to see more mistakes from e-mail of myself and others. Really good advise, thanks for sharing.
Anthony Harris 15 years ago
Hello Chris,

A useful post, but probably preaching to the converted. The semi-literates who write the way you describe are generally self-satisfied muttonheads. They wouldn't even bother reading past your headline.

Just one point though. You refer, early on, you refer to asscoiates as 'colleges', when I think you meant 'colleagues'. Respectfully yours,

Anthony Harris
ExtremeMember 15 years ago
Hey Chris,

Fantastic article with some very practical good advice. Keep it coming. Really appreciate it.

15 years ago
I think this is a great post. It has been found that using a mail merging software for emailing can convert far more than just addressing them like hi friends. You have to make sure your list has all the accompanying first name and last name and any other field that you want to merge.

Please if any one knows of a mailing software that can do that easily please let me know. I will prefer the one I can have a free version and if OK later upgrade. All the same, thanks for the post, its been very helpful.

Nat Nortey