Business Email Fails: Etiquette Crimes To Avoid


Have you ever committed a business email faux pas so embarrassingly bad, you wanted to crawl under your desk and hide in shame?

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Take heart, sister – we’ve all been there. In fact, business email etiquette crimes against humanity are increasingly common and inevitable in the corporate world due to us all being in such a rush, rush, rush.

And it’s all too easy to write inappropriate emails and hit ‘send’ at work when we’re angry and upset. What’s more, many a bully boss is guilty of being a ‘keyboard warrior’ and saying cruel and offensive things via email to you that they’d never have the guts to say to your face.

Nowadays, email blunders are such a serious issue. They can cost you and your company business and/or even put you out of a job, says Jodie Bache-McLean (pictured), director of both June Dally-Watkins (JDW) and Dallys Model Management.

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Jodie – who’s a well-respected national and international business and interpersonal etiquette expert – says how you deal with email gaffes can both be a mark of true character and professionalism. First things first – if you commit an email crime, you’re going to have to apologise, sister – and the quicker the better.

“There is really no other option but to apologise,” Jodie says, “And you have to telephone the person and apologise ASAP – anything less than that is rude and unsatisfactory behaviour in a workplace. Business email blunders are so common; some companies have lost business over emails that contain negative comments.

“My top advice it do not write something rude in an email, never ever! I am sure everyone can relate to this situation. The best course of action is never pen your thoughts or feelings when angry in an email. Instead, write it down long-hand on a piece of paper to yourself. This can be calming and a much better way to get the issue off your chest.”

Be wary of gossiping at work via email too, ladies – Jodie says you never know who may be reading it and if it will fall into the wrong hands. In addition – it’s all too easy, when stressed and tired, to accidentally send an email directly to the person you’re bitching about?!

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But the etiquette expert’s pet hate when it comes to poor business email communication is not using a salutation in the first point of contact.

“We should always treat an email correspondence as we do a letter,” Jodie says. “It is just common courtesy; remember this may be the first point of contact that you have with a potential client, customer or future employer, so use this opportunity to build a great rapport with them.

“Running a close second in corporate email blunders, I believe, is sometimes we rely far too much on email. We all must be mindful that face-to-face communication is ultimately the best, followed closely by telephone communication.”

Jodie’s top 10 business email etiquette pointers include: 

  1. Always use a greeting at the start of your email.
  2. Do not use email in place of proper face-to-face communication when trying to communicate important and/or personal matters.
  3. Do not just rely on spell check – always read your emails; some people may base your character on poor and incorrect grammar.
  4. Use emoticons sparingly in business emails – exercise extreme discretion.
  5.  Make sure your email signature is visible to all who receive your emails.
  7. Do not write anything in an email that you would not want to see on the front page of your national newspaper.
  8. Don’t send emails with irrelevant subject lines – or worse still, none at all.
  9. Don’t ever attach enormous files!  This can cause so many issues for the receiver; work on a maximum of 5meg at any given time.
  10. Don’t use email to engage in mindless and potentially hurtful workplace gossip – you never know who is reading it.

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