Category Archives: Email Etiquette

Communicating with Your Clients

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Imagine this: you’ve worked for hours putting together the proposal that your prospective client requested and are ready to send it. You choose what you believe to be the most efficient way to communicate—you e-mail the document. You expect that your prospect is checking e-mail regularly and will be contacting you within a few hours to seal the deal. You have a mental picture of yourself signing the contract and depositing a nice check into your account.

Cubicle series: the MultitaskerWhat you don’t know is that your prospect doesn’t check e-mail frequently. You failed to find out what form of communication he prefers and how he wanted to receive your response. Sadly for you, your competitor is on the ball and knows. By the time your e-mail proposal is opened and read, the deal is done, but not with you.

Maybe you called the prospect, who was out of the office at the time, so you left the information on voice mail and waited all day for a response. As it turns out, this person only checks voice mail at the end of the day and returns his calls in the morning. Again, your competition knew this and sent an email instead.

We are absolutely overwhelmed with ways to transmit information. Current studies indicate that e-mail is the business communication tool of choice. However, many people still prefer the telephone, the office staple since Alexander Graham Bell first spoke to Mr. Watson from the other room. Now that phones are mobile, no one is ever far from their phone.

Phones are so “smart” today that they can do everything that you used to have a landline, a computer and a fax machine for. Their latest trick is texting. Skip email. Forget calling and just send a cryptic text message. There is an entire segment of the population that does not know any other way to communicate than to text. After all, it is convenient. You can text anytime, anywhere to almost anybody. The business person who doesn’t text is considered to be something akin to the dinosaur.

We all have our preferred means of communication. When communicating with your clients, learn their preferences. It’s not just a courtesy, it’s good business. It’s not about you; it’s about your client. How can you tell what your client prefers? Ask. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s to successfully communicating with your clients!


Lydia Ramsey

If you have any questions about the etiquette of communication in business, please contact me. I am available to you however you wish to communicate.

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Email Etiquette Plain and Simple

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Yesterday I read my friend and public relations guru Dan Janal’s weekly blog, which he titled “Email Productivity: Tips to Improve Media Relations and Customer Service.” Needless to say, it struck a chord with me as I read on. I must confess that Dan generally hits the nail right on the head and has a strong message for his readers and followers.

This week he debunks the myth that in order to be productive, you should never check your email in the morning. Those who say that insist that such a practice is “useless, time consuming, distracting, low priority and takes away valuable time from your ‘big ideas.'” I confess that email is the first thing I check in the morning–after I feed the cats. In their opinion, food trumps email.

In addition to those who warn you not to open your email in the morning, there are others who caution you to check your messages only at set times during the day. In one sense this might make you more productive. After all if you are writing a proposal, working on a project or engaged in another important activity, email can be an interruption.

However, if you depend on other people such as clients, customers and even vendors to help you grow your business; you could potentially miss out on valuable opportunities by limiting the times during the day that you open your email.

In my case, as a speaker and trainer, I might miss a message from someone who is looking for a presenter for their next meeting. Perhaps the person they had scheduled had to cancel at the last minute. This person doesn’t have all day to get a response. It may be that a reporter is looking for a quote for an article and has an imminent deadline. In both cases these people will move on and find someone else who can help them.

In my opinion, it is not only bad business to be so arrogant as to put yourself above others, it is discourteous and disrespectful. When the people who support your business need you, be there for them and be responsive, no matter the time of day. Plain and simple, it’s just good email etiquette.


Mobile Devices vs. Email Business Etiquette

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Have mobile devices struck one more blow to email business etiquette? Do you know that smart phones and tablets make up more than half of all mobile devices and that 90 percent of those with these latest devices use them to check their email before checking their computers? At least that is what Dave Tedlock of NetOutcomes.reports. Based on personal experience, I don’t doubt him for a second.

Everywhere you go, you see people on their mobile device, whatever type it is, but something has changed. They are no longer using them for live conversation. This is obvious because their lips aren’t moving and they are operating the device with their thumbs.  What effect has this had on email etiquette? For one thing it has caused a rise of ATS or “Alone Together Syndrome.” ( Look for more about ATS in a future article.)

You know what I mean. You go out to eat as I did yesterday and observe two or more people seated at the same table, totally unaware of each other while they run their thumbs over the minuscule keyboards on their mobile device. You have to wonder why they decided to go out together when they show no interest in each other.

It happens everywhere, not just restaurants. You see this behavior at meetings, conferences, concerts, weddings and even funerals. There is currently a TV ad featuring a man checking his email during a wedding and  getting so excited at the message he just received  that he blurts out, “I do” while the couple is making their vows. It is definitely a sign of the times.

If you are going to check and respond to email whenever and wherever you are, be sure that your email is as professional as if you were sitting in front of your desktop or laptop writing it.. Too many business people send email from their mobile device the same way that they would text.

In creating tips that will help you come across as a polished professional, whether you are sitting at your desk sending email or waiting in your doctor’s office, I realized that one of the most important considerations is having a complete and consistent email signature.

For more on this topic, I interviewed technology expert, Jerry Gitchel, president of Make Technology Work, to get his advice about what to consider when setting up a Mobile Device Email Signature. Here is what Jerry had to say to the many business pros who are migrating their primary email tasks from desktop or notebook computers to mobile devices. “Since the startup configuration is often handled by telecom techs or IT staff, an important email account configuration step is missing. The missing step is the setup of a personalized email signature. It contains the important contact information receipents use to connect by phone.”

He went on to say that “the result is individual clients receiving multiple branding and contact info from each mobile device. It’s not the device that matters, it’s the sender. The elements of contact info, logos and links should match across all phones, tablets and computers. The only difference to be considered is layout. Using a larger font size to create a smartphone sig is just good sense.”


– Develop a single sig that includes everything you want to see across all platforms. Use this master template to setup an email sig for each device.

– Keep a list handy of all the devices and platforms (web-based email) to make sure updated information is fully distributed.

– Put your customer hat on and experience your email sig on different devices and displays.”

I added these tips for consideration when sending email in this multiple device world:

The rules of  business etiquette apply to any and all devices that send and receive email. As usual we get the technology before we get the rules for how to use it professionally and before we consider how to follow proper business etiquette.

Typos are not acceptable even if you are using an iPhone or an iPad. Proof your message and be sure every word is spelled correctly.

Abbreviations and acronyms should not be used when you are responding to business email.  It feels like texting, but it is not.Use acronyms only if you are certain that the recipient is familiar with them as well.

Keep your subject line short and to the point. The person to whom you are writing may be reading it on one of the latest mobile devices.

Keep your message brief.  If others are receiving your email on a smart phone or other device, they won’t be happy about a lengthy message.

Most importantly, consider where you are and with whom before checking your email. Few messages are so important that they can’t wait while you engage with your lunch partner or with your client and colleague during a meeting. It is an insult when you place more value on your email than the people around you and the business at hand.

Just because the majority of people are now using mobile devices for their business communication does not mean that they can ignore the rules of email business etiquette.

What is your thoughts about sending email from mobile devices? What other rules woud you add?

Looking forward to hearing from you. Please contact me or send me your comments!





An Email Etiquette Dilemma – Is It Hey, Hi or Dear?

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In the event you are not aware of it, there is a debate going on regarding the proper salutation to use for your email communication. It is not quite on the same level as the political debates, but like Hurricane Isaac, it is growing  in intensity and covering an ever widening area.

Earlier this year I was contacted by the Wall Street Journal for an article being written by Dionne Searcey titled “Hey, Folks: Here’s a Digital Requiem For a Dearly Departed Salutation.” Last week a reporter from, Susan Adams, called to ask my opinion on the use of “hi” vs. “dear” as an email greeting.  From the number of comments and the diverse responses posted on her article, “Hi? Dear? The State of the Email Salutation,” this is a topic which has stirred up quite a controversy.

Those who were either interviewed for these articles or who were quoted in them were adamant about their stance.  Some felt the word “dear” was old-fashioned and out-of-date.  One person felt it was too “girlie” while another said it was too intimate. Yet another replied that using any salutation at all takes too much time to type.

Between the two articles,  opinions were all over the map and included those who preferred “hello” over “hi.”  “Hey” did not seem to get any votes.  Maybe all those interviewed had a mother like mine who drilled into me that “hey” was not an appropriate greeting in any situation. “Hay is for horses” was her  response to anyone saying “hey”.  As a Southerner, I have to admit that I use “hey” frequently as a verbal greeting with friends.  It is as common as grits here in the South.

Here is my stance on how you should begin email correspondence from an email etiquette point of view:

  1. One size does not fit all.  Use the salutation  appropriate to the situation.
  2. Use “dear” in your initial correspondence with someone you have never met and with whom you are trying to establish a business relationship.
  3. Use “hi” or “hello” once you have established a relationship.
  4. Follow the lead of your client or customer. If the other person always uses “dear”, then so do you. If they begin their reply to you with “hi,” then follow suit.
  5. Use a salutation of some form. There is always enough time to be courteous,
  6. Along with your greeting include the person’s name. However, never use anyone’s first name in business until they give you permission.
  7. With friends you may be as informal as you like.

From reading all the quotes and comments in these two articles, I feel confident that “dear” is not dead.  But I believe that we are going to see a lot more of “hi” in our in-boxes.

I’d like to know what you think so please email me if you received this via email or post your comment below if you are reading it from my blog.

Get Ready to Clean Out Your Inbox

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It is that time of the year again, and no, I am not talking about the holiday season.  We just did that. Now we need to move on, get back to work and  on track for 2012.  As we think about being more productive and profitable this year, what better way to begin than by cleaning out your inbox. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see to the bottom of mine. No matter how hard I try, I never manage to clean it out completely.  I get just so far and then I am slammed with another couple dozen emails and off I go again.

An important message that I bring to those who attend my presentations or who read my articles on email etiquette in the business world is that you need to respond to email in a timely fashion.  You need to be in control of what comes in and what goes out of your mailbox. You need to understand that your business email is an extension of your professional  image.

There is hope and it is right around the corner. Two weeks from now, January 23-27, we recognize “Clean Out Your Inbox Week.”  How timely is that, especially if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to take control of your email. The person behind this event is my good friend Marsha Egan, the author of Inbox/Detox. Five years ago Marsha realized that almost everyone in the workplace is suffering from email overload and that productivity is affected by our email addiction so she started something akin to the Betty Ford Clinic for Email Addicts.

If you want to take back your work life, recover from your addiction and project the image of a polished professional online, I suggest you check out Marsha’s programs.   You might think about purchasing her best-selling book, Inbox Detox and the Habit of Email Excellence (Acanthus 2009), available on Amazon.

While I still haven’t been 100% successful in my efforts to clean out my inbox, each year when I go back into treatment, I get  better.  Who knows, this may be the year I succeed.

March is National Email Month. How is Your Email Etiquette?

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When email first came on the scene, we had no rules for using it correctly and effectively.  As usual, the technology preceded the rules of behavior.

Your email is as much a part of your professional image as:

  1. the clothes you wear
  2. the greeting on your voice mail
  3. the handshake you offer
  4. the way you present your business card

If you want to impress on every front and build positive business relationships, steer clear of these email mistakes.

  1. Omitting the subject line.  Given the huge volume of email that everyone receives, the subject header is essential if you want your message read.
  2. Not making your subject line meaningful. Your header should be pertinent to your message, not just “Hi” or “Hello.”  The recipient is going to decide the order in which to read email based on who sent it and what it is about.  Your email will have lots of competition.
  3. Not using a greeting and personalizing your message  Failure to put in the person’s name and give a greeting, which can range from “Dear,” Hi,” or “Hello,” can make you and your email seem cold and detached.
  4. Not accounting for tone. When you communicate with another person face to face, 93% of the message is non-verbal.  Email has no body language.  The reader cannot see your face or hear your tone of voice so chose your words carefully.
  5. Writing the great American novel.  Keep your message short. Use only a few paragraphs, a few sentences per paragraph and lots of white space.
  6. Thinking that no one else will ever see your email.  Once it has left your mailbox, you have no idea where your email will end up.  Don’t send anything that you couldn’t stand to see on a billboard on your way to work the next day.
  7. Expecting an instant response. Not everyone is sitting in front of the computer with email turned on.  If  you need a quick response, pick up the phone.
  8. Completing the “To” line first. The emial address of the person to whom you are writing is the last piece of information you should enter. If you enter the recipient’s address first, a mere slip of the finger can send a message before its time.
  9. Using email when you ought to pick up the phone.

Email makes everything easier and faster including making a powerful business impression and establishing positive professional relationships. The businessperson who uses the technology effectively and appropriately will see the results of that effort reflected in the bottom line.




It’s Time to Clean Out of Your Inbox

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Did you know that this week is National Clean Out Your Inbox Week?  If you missed that piece of news, it is not too late to un-clutter your inbox.  Marsha Egan, the author of Inbox Detox, is the founder of this event and has a wealth of information to share with you to help you either organize your email or toss it out.

While you’re at it, consider un-cluttering your messages.  Email is meant to be brief and to the point.  Most of us skim our email so if yours is lengthy and looks as if you copied the front page of the Wall Street Journal, very few people will read it.  Go back over your messages and chances are you can cut them in half and still make your point.

If you want more email etiquette tips, check out my article on The Top Twelve Email Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Career.

Now go clean out your inbox.  You have no idea how much better you will feel.

Rumors about the Death of the Word “Dear”

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“The times they are a-changin” as Bob Dylan so aptly pointed out in 1964.  No where does it seem more obvious than in the world of etiquette.  The time and effort that people used to spend on being courteous and respectful has diminished.  We value informality more than formality.  Take, for example, the use of “dear” as a salutation in email.

I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal today in an article titled Hey, Folks: Here’s a Digital Requiem for a Dearly Departed Salutation by Dionne Searcy addressing this topic.  The range of opinions was extensive. My position was clear, and I am sticking to it.  People who don’t start their initial business communication with “dear” lack polish and come across as abrupt. The use of “dear” in no way suggests intimacy in e-mail. On the contrary, it shows respect and professionalism. Be assured that I am not suggesting it is never appropriate to use less formal greetings such as “Hi”, “Hey,” or “Hello.”

Here are five tips to keep in mind when choosing which salutation to use:

  1. In an initial business communication always use “dear” and address your client by title and last name.
  2. Let the client take the lead on how formal or informal your communication is.
  3. As the client relationship becomes less formal, so should your salutation.
  4. When corresponding with international clients, always use a formal salutation and tone.
  5. When emailing family and friends, the choice is yours.

If you would like more tips on email etiquette, I invite you to read my article on The Top Twelve Email Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Career.

Email is fast and efficient, but it is also impersonal.  It needs all the help it can get if you want to use it to build relationships.  If your goal is to be recognized as a professional, then try adding the polish that builds profits.

Those are my thoughts, dear reader.





Replying to All

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If it’s good to reply, isn’t it better to reply to all? No, it’s not.  You should use the “Reply to All” function only if everyone on the original address list needs to know.  With everyone buried in e-mail on a daily basis, no one appreciates receiving unnecessary messages.

How many times have you been part of a group that received notice of a meeting or event via e-mail asking you to reply if you can attend?  The next thing you know, you are receiving messages from everyone on the list.  You are afraid not to read all those e-mails in case they contain some important information that involves you.  99% of the time they don’t.

Stop and think before you reply to all.  In most cases, only the sender needs to know.

E-Mail Etiquette From A Global Perspective

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In my January newsletter I wrote that I was headed to India to work with a global technology client to offer coaching on executive etiquette to their senior leaders. I am now back in this fascinating country on my second “tour of duty.”

When I left, I promised to stay in touch and to be only an e-mail away from family, friends and clients. E-mail has proven to be my most reliable means of communication. My laptop and Blackberry are my constant companions.

Relying on e-mail so heavily has given me a new perspective on the subject. I am more aware of how and when I use it, and I am paying more attention to the way others do as well. You can only guess what is coming next—a few reminders of the do’s and don’ts of e-mail etiquette.

  • Do keep it brief. That is a hard rule for me, especially being so far from home. I have so much I want to tell people, friends, clients and client friends about my experiences. For those of you who know me well, brevity has never been my strong point. However, most people don’t have a lot of time to spend reading e-mail. Even my daughter said, “Mom, you don’t have to write every detail. Just let us know how you are.” I now have a sticky note on my laptop, saying,”Keep it brief.” The details will go into my journal.
  • Confirm that you have received some one else’s e-mail. Once upon a time e-mail was extremely reliable. The hackers, spammers and Internet vandals have changed all that. We can’t be sure that our e-mail has gone through. Even bounce-backs are unreliable. Again, keep it brief, but let the other person know in a few words that the message was received.
  • Respond to e-mail within 24 hours. You may be overwhelmed with other tasks and don’t have time to send an immediate response. If that’s the case, simply reply that you received the message and that you will respond. Suggesting a day or time is better that saying, “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” What does that mean?

For now, those are my top of mind e-mail tips.