A Guide to Email Etiquette

A Guide to Email Etiquette

A Style Guide to Basic Email Configuration

Use a generic email address format throughout business. If you have a hotmail address such as “cuteybabe”- don’t ever use it for business or for personal purposes where you want the recipient to take you seriously. They won’t!

Use “blind cc” when sending to multiple recipients that don’t know each other. Recipients may not wish their email address disclosed to third parties.

Use “Subject” to help the recipient understand what the email is about. General subject lines like “Business” or “Design Work” may be unhelpful for the recipient in understanding the topic and importance of your email.

Set up standard e-signatures for all staff. Use generic format including person’s name, title, company name and relevant contact details.

Think before using a html footer (that is the graphical banner that appears under some emails) to show your logo as some people’s browsers can block it coming through or the graphic won’t appear. If you are keen to use, fully test through sending to external “test” users before going mainstream.

Use a ‘Disclaimer” at very bottom of email. This advises recipient of confidentiality and instruct them what to do if they receive an email from you in error.

Set up your email so that your e-signature automatically appears at the bottom of all “new” emails sent and all “reply” emails sent. This will create a standard and consistent format for your emails.

Email Etiquette – Things to Consider Before Hitting that Send Button

Avoid using large/small font size or unconventional font type. This can drive the reader mad and may reflect poorly on your professionalism. Wings Dings as a font type is a no no!

Don’t ever write an email in anger as research has proven that the written word has much more power (and is generally perceived as more offensive) than speaking. A good rule is to “sleep on your response” and send the email the next day when you are calmer.

When in doubt regarding replying to an email, consider picking up the phone. A phone call has many elements – volume & tone, pace & inflection and words. Email has just one element – words. And words without tone and inflection can be dangerous.


Avoid using slang, jargon or abbreviations if possible as it can polarize people. Of course, industry language used in communicating between industry players is OK.

Don’t swear or make overtly political or race based comments. There is no upside.

Remember that statements made in emails have been found to be binding contractually. So don’t email any commitments you are either unauthorized to make or unwilling to deliver on.

Don’t “cc” every person in the entire loop. It drives people mad and can make you look like you lack awareness and confidence.

Remember also that Microsoft and other email browsers limit the number of recipients you can send one email to. Be aware of block limits.

Don’t “cc’ individuals to leverage them doing something or to “dob them in” on a failed promise or deadline. They will resent it and won’t forget it.

Have a standard greeting. I recommend “Hi John” or “Hello John”- something friendly and understated. By having a standard greeting used through the office, it creates consistency and strengthens communication. I have received emails with “Yo man” as the greeting.

Have a standard “close” to finish your email. Avoid writing the unutterable – that is, things that you would generally never say. ‘Regards” is a good standard close while “Cheers” is OK for people you know on a more personal basis.

Use headings, sub-headings and bullet points to separate topics and break up your message. Avoid long sentences and massive block paragraphs as it makes it so much harder for the reader to comprehend your point and respond.

Use attachments where the message or content you are sending is detailed or lengthy. This can allow you to make summary points or direct the recipient to key points.

Remember not to gossip or slander people as email is the most easily accessible permanent documented record in existence. If forwarded as a chain email, the six degrees of separation kicks in and is treated as fact. No further questions your Honor!

Take great care in providing explicit personal facts about yourself. An email is not truly “in confidence” is it?

Avoid arguing through email as it can escalate very quickly and has and will continue to start World War 3 between combatants. Meet with someone in person or speak with them by phone before things get messy. You can’t “un-send” an email after it’s landed.

Anyone can view your emails with or without the help of IT technicians. Some businesses periodically review outbound email to check up on business communication. It’s long been a debate whether this is in breach of privacy but emails sent “at work” are often argued by management to be “fair game” within the work domain. Assume that others are reading your emails (even though they’re probably not) as that will help provide a filter for you in authoring your emails.

A Final Word on Email

Write in a tone and style that reflects how you would appreciate being written (spoken) to. If you think of this regularly, you shouldn’t fall foul of the email monster and should get treated comparatively well in your in-box while maximizing the intended and real benefits email provides us.

Darren Bourke, Business Influence, 2008.

Darren Bourke is a Consultant, Business Coach & Mentor who helps small & medium businesses struggling to maximize profitability, productivity, people and performance. His Free Report titled What Successful Owners of Growth Businesses Do That You Don’t, newsletter and updates are full of strategies and tips to make your business boom. Sign up now at www.businessinfluence.com.au


Leave a Reply