“Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.”

Will Cuppy


Good email etiquette is definitely about quality rather than quantity. There are no formal rules about how to use email but you can cultivate good habits in yourself and in your team that make life easier for everyone. Here is our Top 20 tip hit list.

1. Write less: one way in which to receive less mail is to write fewer emails yourself – pick up the phone or walk down the corridor to have a real conversation.

2. Write effectively: being succinct and relevant in crafting your mails may take you longer initially but in the long run, you will be more efficient and effective in what you achieve.

3. Encourage your team to write effective mails too: provide fair and constructive feedback to any team members who send lengthy emails and let them know that you would appreciate short, concise emails from them.

4. Use a clear heading in your subject line: get to the point with an accurate description of what the email concerns – be simple, clear and direct. Refresh the subject line if your reply takes off in a different direction.

5. Don’t get mistaken for spam: the subject line is crucial here. Avoid all capitals, all lower case, don’t include url’s or exclamation marks – these are all signs that could consign your mail to the spam folder.

6. Provide essential information about yourself: unless you are 100% sure, don’t assume that the reader knows you automatically. Write a one sentence introduction saying who you are, what you do and always include a signature so that people know how to get in touch with you.

7. Be clear if a response is needed: include the words “please respond” in your subject line or be very specific in your mail about the fact that a response is needed. Give a date by which people should respond.

8. Be concise and to the point: state the purpose of the mail, offer a brief background, highlight any action the reader needs to take – use bullet points to make the mail easier to read.

9. Be concise and to the point: think about who is reading the email and write in a style appropriate for them – keep business mails professional.

10. Be courteous: email lacks non-verbal signals such as voice tone or body language so curt, too short responses (“No thanks”) may be open to misinterpretation. If you do not expect a response, put “No Reply Necessary” at the top of the e-mail or in the subject line.

11. Be business-like in your approach: keep jargon, text language shortcuts (“4u) and emoticons for private messages and social networking sites.

12. Avoid “angry” emailing: don’t write anything in an email that you would be unhappy to have passed around or forwarded. Once you have clicked send, who ultimately reads your mail may be out of your control.

13. Respect confidentiality: complicated or confidential discussions should not be held by email and some confidential documents are better being handed over in person or sent by courier rather than being included as attachments.

14. Only “CC” when it is essential: it is too easy to include people on the copy list on an FYI basis – only include those who really need to be informed and kept up-to-date.

15. Respond in a timely fashion: usually within 24 – 48 hours is acceptable but you could also quickly acknowledge receipt and let the writer know when you will respond if you are busy.

16. Think carefully about “Reply All”: if it is not necessary for everyone to receive your reply, then reply just to the sender or to those who need to see the reply.

17. Avoid long chains: message chains that are long and messy confuse most people. Clean it up first, then send it.

18. Make attachments easy to manage: let the recipient know at a glance what the attachment contains with a logical filename. Sending a brief mail to announce large files in advance is helpful or even better, use a share file site such as Drop Box – in this case, one link sent by mail is all you need to forward.

19. Don’t overuse “High Priority”: flagging emails for quick attention is a function that should not be abused. Save for really urgent situations.

20. Maintain privacy: when mailing to a long list of people who do not necessarily know each other, think twice before openly showing everyone’s email address. Use “B’cc” instead.

Business Writing Skills is the perfect focus for you if you would like to optimise your ability to use the written word to influence, inform and impress.