10 Email Etiquette Tips

These 10 email etiquette tips help you to stay on top of your email and maintain your professional image. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that it won’t be long before people are spending 3-4 hours a day on email.

Long email threads, muddy subject lines, CCing the whole company, and poorly written email communication; means time on email is likely to increase. This costs your company money and is a drain on your productivity.

Here are 10 email etiquette tips to get your email up to scratch.

1. Clear subject lines

One of my pet peeves is a subject line that says "Hi!" or "From Steve."

Your subject line needs to be crystal clear on the action or purpose of the email. A clear subject line makes it easier to search and scan email, and can be good for your time management system.

A good rule of thumb is that the subject line tells you what the message is about before you open it. A side benefit of this is that the email is easy to search when you file it.

2. Keep messages brief and to the point

Another pet peeve are those long email messages that wander and digress without actually getting to the point until the end of the dissertation. Keep your messages brief.

If you have to send a long message then make sure that you state clearly the action required up front and then explain. At least if the main point is up front then the reader can read with the long message with that in mind. See these tips on how to write an email before you press send.

3. One subject per email message

Email messages need to be concise holding yourself to one subject per message. This helps in the triage process when you are going through your emails. Clear subject headings with one subject per message also aid searching, filing, and managing emails.

email etiquette

4. Clear up long email threads

A long email thread with many people in the conversation can be difficult to see who is taking charge.
If long threads are becoming a problem you need to clean up the thread and summarize the main points so far. Establish ownership of these points and delegate (if needed) accordingly.

When I think long threads may impede on email etiquette and efficiency, I am now in the habit of posting a document on Microsoft Sharepoint and send the link to the relevant people. I ensure that I specify that I would like input and give them a timeline. This time management tip can clarify priorities, improve delegation and reduce long email threads.

Another option may be to set up email etiquette rules within the team or company that ensure long email threads are managed appropriately.

5. Watch you tone

55% of face-to-face communication is via body language. 38% is the tone of voice and the way it is said. 7% is what you actually say.

Email misses about 93% of the what is a given in verbal communication, and your chances for being misunderstood are higher. Remember that your tone can’t be heard in email.

The tone that you use to communicate your message is a big factor in verbal communication. This is missing in email communication, and if not careful this can cause issues. If you have ever tried to be sarcastic in an email and the participant took it the wrong way then you know what I mean.

6. Use an email signature for good email etiquette

Use an email signature that has your contact information. An good email signature gives your email a consistent and professional look. Make sure that you put your contact information in the email signature.

Here is a step-by-step approach to setting up and inserting an email signature in Microsoft Outlook.

7. Use CC, BCC, and 'Reply All' sparingly

Use BCC and CC appropriately.

Did you know that over 70% of CC emails are irrelevant to your performance? Overuse of CC clutters your Inbox. To avoid clogging your email, set up an email filter so that you CC’s are sent to your CC folder (and check that folder once a week). Don’t use BCC to show people who you copied to, however, do use your BCC for a distribution list.

Hitting Reply All is a waste of time in many circumstances as it clogs up many of the other recipients' Inbox. Consider replying just to the sender of the email.

8. Avoid capitals

Avoid SHOUTING. Don’t use capital letters, even if you want to emphasize a point in your email. Rather use an asterisk or underline your words if you want to emphasize.

Avoid using colors as some email programs don’t read the colors.

9. Watch your grammar

Use spellchecker. Poor grammar and spelling errors may seem like small things but they are there for a reason. They help to communicate your message and without them you tarnish the professional image of the company with the press of a button. Most email programs have a spellchecker so it is wise to use it.

For those regular mail outs consider using an email template so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

10. Don't use email for potentially confusing messages

Email messages are not appropriate when sending emotional or confusing messages. It is better to make personal contact or picking up the phone.

These email etiquette tips are a starting point that you can put into place to help your email etiquette. However, synergy occurs when you, your team, and your company adopt email etiquette rules which people are held accountable to.

Adopting a shared email etiquette standard boosts your teams professionalism and saves time and money.

If you liked this article then you may also like these email tips.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.
var l = window.location.href, d = document; document.write('<form action="#"><div style="text-align:center"><textarea cols="50" rows="2" onclick="this.select();"><a href="'+l+'">'+d.title+'</a></textarea></div></form>');

Have Some Great Email Tips?

Do you have a great story about this? Share it!

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Email Tips: Turn off email alerts 
Do you rule your email or does your email rule you? I remember when email used to be fun, years ago I we used to get 10 emails a day – but now most …

Color code your emails Not rated yet
I am Head of Human Resources of a company with 10,800 employees, spread over approx 70,000 Hectares of plantations and emails just pour into my Inbox. …

One touch one decision rule for email Not rated yet
How do you apply the one touch one decision rule to emails that are longer than 2 minutes? The reason I ask is that I was reading about David Allen's 2 …

The two minute rule for email Not rated yet
Do you butterfly across emails, only to read them again and again with actioning the email? If you procrastinate on emails or re-read emails without …

I am wasting my time on the email Not rated yet
Hello, Good site that you have here. Each day I get about 100 emails and I find that I am spending too much time on all of these emails. I guess this …

Click here to write your own.

› Email Etiquette