Technology is a wonderful thing that makes life easier and transactions quicker. The dawn of the digital era has even given us access to an immense wealth of knowledge at the click of a button. And since we can now tap into the wisdom of our ancestors from the comfort of our laptop, here’s some Latin for you: “Scripta manent”. Or else, the written word remains.

At Aristocracy London, we don’t just make 3 piece suits for the modern gentleman. We believe in being a gentleman. Following on from our call to restore tube etiquette, this week we decided to focus on emails. This tool for faster correspondence, which takes up a whole quarter of our time at work, has morphed into a minefield of office etiquette. Here’s how we can all add some grace and chivalry to our digital communications.

How to email like a gentleman

1. Pick the right medium

An email is more appropriate than a call, or chat, when you need a record of what was discussed or when the recipient might need time for a thoughtful response. Emails are also great for sharing happy news, e.g. the birth of a child, or party invitations with people who are not close family or friends.

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2. Don’t mix business with pleasure

Never send work emails from your personal email address and vice versa. If you don’t have a professional email address, at least make sure that your personal one isn’t inappropriate. No one would be interested in a business proposal from funkydude89.

3. Word your subject line carefully

People receive more emails than they care to read so they scan subject lines to decide what to prioritise. Keep your subject line short and informative and avoid classifying an email as confidential or urgent, unless it actually is.

4. Salutation

This is one of the etiquette rules that most people get wrong but it’s really very simple: If you’re not sure how to address someone, it means you don’t know them well enough so opt for polite and formal. This is particularly important with international business partners as, in some countries, informal equals rude. And never shorten someone’s name unless you know for a fact that’s what they use.

5. Keep it to the point

Don’t assume people have time to read through a very long email or, worse, an endless chain of emails. Keep it brief and break up the text with sub-headings and bullet points, providing hyperlinks for additional reading. If an email exchange drags on and people lose track of action points, it’s time for a meeting.

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6. It’s only funny if people are laughing

It’s very easy to misconstrue someone’s tone over email. What may seem funny to you can be interpreted as rude by the recipient or your attempt at being straightforward can be perceived as abrupt. Again, when dealing with people from other cultures, it is important to bear in mind that not everyone laughs with the same things.

7. Proofread

“Firing off” or “shooting” an email sounds efficient but, what only takes seconds to send, the recipient has all the time in the world to read, re-read and judge you on. So going back to “scripta manent”, check your email for grammar, spelling and accuracy of content. Retracting an email is the last resort of the desperate.

8. “Reply all” at your risk

Many a red-faced employee has had to admit to their line manager that they inadvertently sent an email to a bunch of people, including some who should have never seen the content. Before clicking on “reply all”, allow a second or two to check who “all” actually is.

9. Respond to every email

We are all busy but a gentleman replies to every single email that requires a response, even if it is to acknowledge receipt and advise that he will action it in due course. The same applies to emails that are addressed to you in error: a gentleman will always inform the sender of the mistake.

10. Signature

All emails should be signed off but the type of signature depends on the circumstances. A simple first name will do in informal settings but, for formal business communications, set a proper signature with your title and contact details.

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