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Do you know your email etiquette?

The Institute of Student Employers predicts an 11% growth in graduate job vacancies in 2018. One of the vital skills that employers are looking for in graduates today are strong communication skills. Getting to grips with written communication skills, in this heavily email-based working world, will be key for graduates looking to be one step ahead in their first jobs, as well as the veterans of the office who are looking to brush up on their email etiquette.

FutureLearn and The British Council carried out a series of polls on Twitter and Facebook to find out about people’s emailing habits today, ahead of The British Council’s course, ‘Writing Better Emails’, starting this week. Opinions were divided when it came to including emojis and abbreviating words in emails, and many confessed to emailing the wrong person at work and forgetting to include vital information, such as attachments.

Over half of those polled had sent an email to the wrong person

51% of people said they had sent an email to the wrong person. Shalini Thomas, lead educator on the course, commented: “Nowadays, we’re constantly on the move and sending up to hundreds of emails a day. It can be easy to act too hastily; I’d recommend adding the recipient after you’ve proof-read your email and the email is good to go.”

Almost half of people polled said they use emojis in a work email

59% of people said they’d consider using emojis in a work email, depending on who they were emailing. Shalini advised: “With so many forms of communication at our fingertips, it can be tricky to know what’s appropriate for some audiences and what’s viewed as acceptable forms of communication to others. Ask yourself, who is my audience? What sort of language should I be using and does using emojis match the tone of my message?”

Forgetting to attach the attachment is still a problem for many of us

42% of people admitted they often forget to follow ‘please see attached’ with an attachment. Shalini added: “When we’re acting in haste to quickly tick something off our ‘to do’ list, it can be easy to focus solely on the body of the email and look over the extras. Remember the 6 Cs of email writing: be clear, concise, coherent, complete, courteous and correct.

Over ½  of people think u shldn’t abbrviate wrds

52% of people think that abbreviating words in a work email isn’t appropriate. Shalini commented: “Some of us abbreviate words when we’re sending a text, writing a tweet or sending an instant message. If you’re emailing a colleague you know well to let them know you’re going to be late for a meeting, or to let them know you’re going for lunch, it might be appropriate to abbreviate words, but every company has their own culture and their own expectations when it comes to communicating internally and externally – so you should always bear this in mind.”

For many of us, hitting ‘reply-all’ to an all-staff email is a common mistake

67% of people said they’d hit ‘reply-all’ to an all-staff unintentionally. “It’s easy to overlook these things when we’re determined to send out a message on time”, Shalini said, “but it’s important not to send the wrong message to the wrong audience – check and double-check the ‘to’ field, to avoid finding yourself in an embarrassing situation!”

Many of us are guilty of sending ‘wordy’ emails, forgetting to proofread them, or sending confusing action points to our fellow colleagues. The British Council’s new online course, ‘Writing Better Emails’ is available to start now and aims to support anyone who uses email, whether you’re in the early stages of your career, or simply looking to update this particular set of communication skills.

Led by learning and development experts and teachers and trainers at the British Council, the course focuses on fundamental email skills, such as planning essentials, sentence length, communicating good and bad news, linking ideas together and avoiding confusing emails.

Week one of the course gives an overview of the characteristics of effective email writing, identifying the purpose of your message and understanding your audience. You’ll then move on to making your emails clear and concise, focusing on sentence length, how to remove redundant words, and how to adapt your communication styles for your reader. The final stage of the course looks at keeping emails courteous when delivering constructive feedback and sending a difficult message. You’ll also learn how to effectively manage email threads and discuss essential proofreading tips.

By the end of the course, you’ll be able to:

  • Apply planning and organising techniques for your writing to fit its purpose

  • Assess and adapt emails to different audiences and situations

  • Develop and edit your email to make it clear, concise and easy to understand

Shalini Thomas, Learning and development expert at the British Council and lead educator on the course, said: “A good writing ability is an important skill set for both new employees, as well as for those seeking to progress in their career. That’s because employers today take this into consideration for both hiring and promotion decisions. Organisations need employees who can write effective emails and other documents and it can be expensive to train them once hired. So evidence of these skills is something that employers look for at the hiring stage. Doing the course on a FutureLearn social learning platform allows learners to share their experience, grow in confidence and pick up useful ideas from other learners. So it’s a great way to learn!”

The course starts on 29th January and costs £42 to complete.


Notes to Editors

Paid-for courses at FutureLearn:

Whilst the majority of our courses are offered with an option to learn for free, some are only offered on a paid-for basis. These courses are designed for professionals looking to advance their careers and learn with a smaller group of like-minded individuals.


The polls were carried out by FutureLearn and The British Council on Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis in the last week of January 2018, returning 2,475 votes in total across all questions. You can see how many people answered each question (combined across both platforms) below:

  1. Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person by mistake? N = 583

  2. Should you use emojis in a work email? N = 721

  3. ‘Please see attached:’ … How often do you forget to send an email attachment? N= 449

  4. Do you use abbreviations in your emails to save time? N = 340

  5. Have you ever hit ‘reply all’ to an all-staff email by mistake? N = 382


For further press information, please contact:

Niamh O’Grady, FutureLearn,

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