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Email Etiquette: 7 Things You Must Do Next Time You Send an Email

Rumors have it, we spend about a quarter of workweek, dealing with sales emails and business proposals.

But with that, we hardly think of writing etiquette when outreaching clients, yet this tiny detail may influence the efficiency of our overall marketing efforts.

Writing mistakes impact how people see you. When reading a sales email full of errors, a recipient thinks you aren't intelligent and aren’t worth their trust.

Indeed, why trust and accept a proposal from a person who doesn't know the basic rules of writing or doesn't even care to review a message before sending it?

To avoid such prejudice and misunderstanding, make sure you know and follow the sales email etiquette. Integrating these writing practices into work, you'll improve customization and overall communication with clients.

1) Professional tone

You are here with a sales offer, so your tone of voice needs to be professional. It's not a conversation with a friend or a child, so watch your mouth and think of words you use.

Keep the tone formal, and be careful of jokes or smileys. Utilizing text to speech with emotions can enhance your communication by conveying the intended tone effectively.  Humor can get lost in accurate translation without the right facial expressions, and something funny when spoken may sound different when written. And though emojis are okay to use in emails sometimes, they still can influence your business reputation negatively.

To avoid misunderstandings, don't use words with a negative context (such as "wrong" or "failure," for example). Stay polite, remember "thank you" and "please," and be careful with exclamation points: it's okay to use one to convey the excitement, but that is it. Otherwise, your sales email will sound too emotional or immature. More than that, clients may think you're yelling at them.

Also, don't be sarcastic because your recipient will hardly get the joke, and you'll seem stupid. Furthermore, avoid redundant or weak adverbs and adjectives such as "very," "really," "deeply," "serious," "extremely," and so on. They make you sound vague and overly-emotional when you need to stay calm and professional.

2) Proper grammar and punctuation

We all are humans, and we all make mistakes. It's okay to miss one or two typos (once!), and a prospect will understand and forgive you. But there's a big difference between a slight typo and a message full of grammar or punctuation errors. Such mistakes don't go unnoticed, and recipients may judge you for making them.

Spell-checkers are all well and good, but don't rely on them: they will hardly notice the difference between you're and your or effect and affect.

So, read your email a few times before sending it. Ask an editor to check it. And do your best to avoid at least the most common grammar mistakes.

Speaking of sales email punctuation, try to remember the following rules:

  • Consider terminal punctuation. Always. In other words, every line of your email should end with a punctuation mark, whether it's a full stop, a question, or an exclamation.
  • Learn the rules of comma usage: adding them where they don't belong, you break the message rhythm, therefore frustrating a reader.
  • Punctuate your salutation right: use a colon in formal emails, a comma is okay for relatively casual emails, and a dash works if your proposal goes to someone you're on close terms with.

3) Direct and descriptive subject lines

Email subject line example

As far as you understand, the above has nothing in common with a good subject line to use for your sales emails. It says nothing about the email content, so why should a recipient open and read it? More than that, it sounds spammy: greetings are too casual, too much excitement is in the tone, typos are in the text, a URL isn't shortened (you can use a tool Rebrandly URL shortener for this), and no confirmation included.

A subject line is what makes people decide if they want to open your message. Make sure it's clear and descriptive enough for them to understand what they'll find inside. Remember that your business development depends on your ability to address clients' concerns.

Examples of good subject lines:

  • "Suggestions for the proposal"
  • "Quick question about your article"
  • "Client Report: Please Review by 4 PM"

Poor subject lines to forget:

  • "Important!"
  • "Hello!"
  • "For your review"

4) "One thing" rule

This one came from the best marketing campaigns' practices: each message must have a purpose, and it'd better have only one to make it easier for clients to understand and act upon.

So, here the "one thing" rule goes:

"Each email should cover only one specific item, task, or request."

When sending a sales email, limit it to one request and call to action. Don't ask to revise your report, give feedback, and schedule a meeting: these are three separate actions, which may cause confusion. Stay concise and clear.

If, for some reason, you need to ask for several things on the same topic, format your email as a numbered list. It will clarify that your request has several components for a recipient to address.

Guest post outreach email template

Also, a sign of good manners would be to indicate somewhere in the text that you’ve included an attachment (if any), so a recipient doesn’t overlook it.

This is especially important for cold email, where you want the attention of the recipient immediately and you don’t want to waste their time. Mention one thing and get straight to the point and your chances of success increase significantly.

5) Proper fonts and formatting

If you want to make a recipient's eyes hurt, purple Comic Sans and offbeat formatting will work best. But it's not the reaction you want to get, right?

When it comes to business or sales emails, writing etiquette suggests using standard fonts and formatting. Always. No other colors besides black. Without Caps Lock. No bold or italic for more than one word or word expression in a single mail. Sentence case and standard font size only.

As Barbara Pachter, career coach and author of The Essentials of Business Etiquette advises:

"It is best to use 10- or 12-point type and an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman." 

Long story short, your emails should be easy for other people to read.

Note! We speak here about sales emails you send to prospects personally: cold email outreach or proposals you write alone, not with professionally designed templates. It's not about newsletters where marketers use tons of visuals and persuasive writing techniques to grab users' interest and make them click.

6) Personalization and cultural background

First and foremost, triple-check if you call a recipient by their name and if you spell them correctly. There's nothing more frustrating than this:

Personalised email template

You can always check their LinkedIn profiles or email addresses to see their names' spelling. Also, a sign of bad manners would be to shorten their names (unless they did it themselves in signatures). Yes, Michael can become Mike and Jennifer can turn into Jen, but who said your recipients would like you to call them like this?

Second, double-check if you send an email to the correct recipient. It's easy to select the wrong name from your address book accidentally, which can be embarrassing to both you and the recipient who'll get that email by mistake.

Experts suggest adding the address to the "To" section only after the email is proofread and ready to send. Therefore, you won't send it accidentally before you've finished writing and checking it.

And third, consider psychographic segmentation when it comes to working with people of different cultural backgrounds. While representatives of high-context cultures such as Arab or Chinese want to know you better before doing business with you, Germans or Americans (low-context cultures representatives) prefer to get to the point quickly. With that in mind, craft your sales email accordingly.

7) Professional salutation and signature

Sales emails are not a place for colloquial expressions like "Hey," "Hi folks," or "Yo!" Even if your writing style is casual, make sure it doesn't affect the salutation in your message. Though "Hello" and "Hi" are okay to use, avoid too informal greetings.

If reaching out to someone for the first time, consider salutations such as "Dear Mr./Mrs. [Name]" or "Hello [Name]." Depending on what your relationship with a recipient is like, "Hi" and "[Name]," are okay to consider as well.

But make sure you never use these:

  • Yo, 
  • Hey, 
  • Dear sir or madam, 
  • To whom it may concern, 
  • Hi friend,
  • Gentlemen, 
  • [Name!]

The last one will sound too off-putting with an exclamation point.

And last but not least, pay attention to your signature

Include a signature block to your emails, providing recipients with some info about you. Add your full name, title, and contact information. But don't make it a piece of artwork; use standard font size and color, the same with the rest of your message.

Email signature

And finally:

Once your sales email is composed, don't hurry up to click "Send." Review it. Proofread and edit it to avoid embarrassing typos and common mistakes. You may even want to read it out loud or backward: it's the proofreading trick allowing you to take a different look at what you've written; it prevents you from skimming through sentences. 

Make sure it has a clear offer and call to action. And double-check the tone of voice you use when customizing your professionally written and designed templates. A written word is one of the most powerful tools you can use for business success, so make sure you know how to use it right.

Lesley Vos is a ghost hiding behind posts on writing craft, content marketing, and self-development. She creates web texts and polishes her writing skills. Specializing in self-criticism, Lesley develops a habit of doing her best proofreading before she hits "Send." Check out Twitter @LesleyVos to see more works of hers.

Adam Hempenstall's profile image
Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals. He started his first web design business at 14 and has since written four books and built an international movement around sending better proposals. Having helped his customers win $500,000,000 in the last 12 months alone, he’s launched the first ever Proposal University where he shares best practices on writing and designing proposals. He co-runs a once-a-year festival called UltraMeet and is a massive FC Barcelona fan.