Encouraging Email Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts


Because email communications are so popular, people need more advice on how to best use the tool. I’ve taught people how to use email apps and included the basic tag only as a sidebar on specific topics. However, I am now seeing so many poorly developed emails being sent as commercial communications. I now understand that email etiquette is becoming more and more important as the use of this tool increases. As a fellow professional emailer, I feel the need to encourage better etiquette.

Everyone should remember that email etiquette is part of business communications and proper procedures must be followed for professional conduct in such communications, as well as poor communications reflect on everyone’s professionalism. Here’s a list of a dozen email dos and don’ts to improve your knowledge of communication etiquette.

1. Get to the point. Be concise. No one wants to read a long email. If you have a lot to say, send a note, letter, or provide details in attachments or web links using the full URL.

2. Don’t keep people waiting for an answer. Please reply as soon as possible. A good time management rule to use for a standard response is within 24 hours.

3. Answer all their questions. Questions that were asked in an email sent to you and questions that your email may ask the recipient.

4. Don’t use all uppercase or lowercase letters. Capital letters give the impression of shouting and all lower case letters are difficult to follow, as well as looking illiterate.

5. Make your subject line meaningful but short. The subject line often lets the viewer know whether the email needs attention now or can wait until later. Readers using a phone or PDA to check email can lose valuable screen space to long subject lines.

6. Don’t use “reply all” unless everyone really needs to see the reply. To fix this, change your default email settings so that it is not selected; having to select everything when necessary requires an extra thought step before sending.

7. Use the “CC” courtesy copy option sparingly. Make sure that only people who care about the content of the message or attachments should review the email.

8. Do not forward chain letters or transmit viruses. These items are not only bogging down the mail servers, they are sometimes stopping work production!

9. Use the spell checker and check for correct grammar and punctuation. This is smart for any business communication. Also remember that instant messaging acronyms or shorthand in e-mail are not that clear, as everyone who sees the e-mail may not understand what it means.

10. Do not use email to discuss confidential information. Email is not as private as many think. You never know who can get to the computers and servers through which email may pass, or how long it will be stored on them.

11. Be careful with HTML and attachments. Not everyone wants these things. Some email tools may also not be able to read HTML. Some email servers will automatically block HTML, large attachments, or certain types of attachments anyway.

12. Don’t forget to include a signature line with your name, title, company and a phone number. Just because you have someone’s name and email address doesn’t mean they remember who you are. The phone number is so they can respond quickly or ask questions if needed.

13. Always proofread your email before sending. It’s not safe to assume that the spell checker caught everything; make sure your message is clear and your tone is professional.

I hope you found the thirteen dos and don’ts for improving email etiquette helpful. Remember to use the email communication tool professionally and carefully. Basic email etiquette is becoming more important as the use of this easy communication tool increases. Just because the tool is fast doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used properly. Always keep in mind that poorly developed emails reflect personal and business professionalism.