Email is one of the primary modes of business communication today, resulting in the closing of deals, key transactions and relationship building. In a recent report, the number of 2015 email users reached 2.6 billion, which is expected to grow to 2.9 billion people worldwide by 2019. The same research sheds light on the role email plays in business with 205 billion business and consumer emails sent and received per day. Email etiquette is more important now than ever as it is a written documentation of daily business proceedings and can be kept and preserved. Moreover, email etiquette can vary cross-culturally and knowing these important differences can help make or break your business goals. With 122 business emails sent and received per day per user, set yourself apart in a global market by ensuring each email is aptly targeted for your audience.
1) If you are the first one to email someone from another culture, follow Robert Hickey’s guidelines for names, titles and forms of address. Use Mr., Ms., Dr., and Mrs. depending on the culture.
2) With a new introductory email, use an email handshake with a personal introduction. Use polite conversation to establish rapport such as inquiring about the weather.
3) In time conscious cultures, consider including the degree of urgency in the subject line. For example, ‘action required’ for urgent matters and ‘action needed’ for important matters. Write a clear, specific subject line in the destination and English language.
4) Select the best closing phrase for the destination culture: Kind regards, Sincerely, Best regards.
5) Understand that dates are written differently worldwide. The following partial list is helpful:
- ISO8601 International Standard: year-month-day, 2020-04-30
- Asia Pacific: year-month-day, 2020.04.30
- Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada: day-month-year, 30/04/2020
- The U.S.: month-day-year, 04-30-2020
6) Humor is culture specific, meaning that most jokes tend to be funny only among people who share experiences in that culture. For instance, an Inuit may not understand a joke about the desert. Jokes referencing Western culture, stereotypes and slang may be misunderstood in an email.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards