How to Answer a Business E-mail

Avoid writing e-mails in a rush to give yourself time to read them before sending.
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E-mail has grown into a primary means of communication for businesses, and it may be the only way many customers and collaborators will communicate with you, so the professional image you present in e-mails is important. Taking a few moments to reflect on the context of every e-mail can prevent you from making embarrassing blunders and help you to reflect a positive persona to people who may be making decisions for raises and promotions.

Step 1

Respond to an e-mail within 24 to 48 hours of receiving it, depending on the priority and the effort required in your response. However, do not reply to an e-mail if action is not required. Flooding people's inboxes with e-mails amounting to nothing more than, "Got it. Thanks." can cause them to miss other e-mails with important information or required action.

Step 2

Include both a greeting and salutation in your e-mail. They help to define, at a glance, who sent the e-mail and who is the primary recipient. This becomes important as more people are included in e-mail conversations. For people you do not know well, use a more formal greeting such as "Dear Dr. Jones," or "Dear Sarah Smith." You may shorten this to a first name as you develop a professional relationship with the recipient. Similarly, close with a more formal salutation such as "Sincerely," or "Warm Regards." You may omit this and simply sign your name in less formal e-mails.

Step 3

Include a professional signature including your job title, division and full contact information.

Step 4

Do not "reply to all" when there are blind carbon copy -- "bcc" -- recipients without first obtaining the permission of the original sender.

Step 5

Write the body of your e-mail in a concise manner, limiting yourself to a few short paragraphs. Attach additional information as e-mail file attachments. Use professional language, avoiding the use of jargon, emoticons, exclamation marks, slang or unexplained abbreviations. Include blank lines between paragraphs to make them easier to read.

Step 6

Indicate when there are attachments included in your e-mail or when you add additional recipients. For example, "I have attached last quarter's results as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet," or "I have cc'd Deborah Smith from accounting to bring her into the loop on the budget issues."

Step 7

Never include confidential or proprietary information in an e-mail.

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