Don’t Be a Sally: Email Etiquette for WAH’s


Guest Post from Jacqueline Myers

Let me tell you a story. I’m not proud of it, but here it is.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and co-worker of mine and I were talking about some email correspondence we received from another employee where we work. This person is in a place of power within the college (yes, we work for a college, which makes it even worse), a director with many staff members under her.

My friend and I ended the conversation by bashing this individual, let’s call her Sally, solely based on her emails…you see, neither of us have ever laid eyes on her because we work remotely, in fact, in another state.

What in the world could be so terrible about Sally’s emails that we could think so poorly of her without knowing her? Oh, let me count the ways! She never proofreads, so her emails are full of typos and misspellings, not to mention grammar mistakes. She isn’t clear about what she is talking about or what action employees should take. She is forever sending out emails and forgetting the attachments. She uses insipid subject lines…shall I go on?

Why am I telling you this? Because we can all learn from Sally.

Even though we now see email as an informal way of communicating in our tech-savvy world, it isn’t…if you are using it to communicate with clients or potential clients.

Your emails are often the first impression you make in your at-home business. You may never meet a client face-to face. So the question is: what type of impression do you want to make? Ignoring standard business writing practices, simply because they are going out in email form, can mean doom for your bottom line.

So, before you hit “send,” go through this checklist to ensure you are putting a professional, intelligent, expert foot forward:

 Did you:

147Write a meaningful subject line?

Try including an action word or descriptor before the main heading to tell the person what to expect. For example: “Request: Invoice Update” or “Update: Meeting Time 10/22.” We all know what a jungle our inboxes can be. Try to imagine what subject line would be meaningful to that client.


Take the time to read that email out loud very slowly to yourself to check for typos and awkward phrases—every time. If the email discusses a sensitive or emotional issue, consider writing it and then holding off on sending it for at least a few hours, then see if the tone is appropriate.

147Use professional language?

No matter what you are writing, you need to know your audience. Make sure to avoid slang or “text-speak” (OMG) with clients, unless you feel very comfortable with them, and they with you!

147Spell their name correctly?

This is especially important when you are making initial contact or writing cold call emails. Your well-written email offering a service they need may end up in their “trash” box if their name is spelled incorrectly. Names are important. It is worth the time to double-check the spelling.

147Remember the attachment?

I force myself to add the attachment before I write the body of the email. Once this became a habit, I never had to worry about looking like I wasn’t paying attention. Your clients want to know that they have your undivided attention. Do they?

147Double-check the date and time?

Remember our friend Sally? This is one that she screws up almost every time she sends out an “informative” email. I know when I get an email from her about an upcoming meeting that within an hour I will get a “cancellation” email, letting me know that she wants to cancel that last email. Then, she sends out another one with the (usually) correct information. I’m assuming you are as busy as I am, and that you don’t have time to deal with that. Neither do your clients.

About the Author: Ever wish you had your own, personal English teacher? Now you do! Jacqueline Myers is a college instructor, freelance writer and blogger. Her blog,, is a fantastic place for WAH’s like you to get quick and correct writing and grammar tips to keep your business successful…even if you are UN-enthusiastic about writing! Learn more about her, her *free* resources and professional services by visiting her blog now!

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