E-mail Etiquette

Email Etiquette
Email Etiquette

Email can be an outstanding productivity tool or a waste of time. We all receive more than we want and are probably guilty of sending more than we should. This document is a set of guidelines intended to provide guidelines to maximize the advantages of using email as a communication tool.

You can share it with your team and ask to follow. It’ll stimulate better environment and bring the team to higher professional level.

Addressing Email

Use the “To” box to address the message to the person who needs to read the message and take action. Multiple addressees in the body of the message can create confusion and provides license for inaction. Also, proper use of address boxes (To, cc, bcc) can help the recipients sort and filter email for quick action.

Use of “cc” and “bcc” boxes:

Use the cc: box for people who have a clear need to know, not just for general information.
Be especially careful when using cc to “let my management know what I’m doing or what someone else is doing.” It may be better to summarize in another manner.
When using bcc, realize that the recipient may not realize that she/he was on the bcc list (especially if the distribution list is long) and may reply to all – a separate heads up message may be appropriate instead of bcc (keep in mind that names on bcc will not be copied on replies from others). In general bcc usage is not a goog manner except cases when you distribute email to masses and don’t want people see each other names.
Make the “Subject” of the email informative, rather than a sparse one or two word descriptor. Add one of the following acronyms to help the recipient to quickly decide on when to read and whether to respond:

  • FYI: No action required. For your information
  • ACTION REQURED: Action required. Please specify due date in the subject line
  • URGENT: Indicates immediate response or action required – you may want. to follow up with a phone call but the email can be used to inform a wider audience of decisions, actions, or information

When using the “Auto Signature” feature, keep it to four lines or less. – Use corporate sanctioned email signature
Use the “Out of Office Assistant” if you are out and there will be a delay in your response to messages.
Be considerate when attaching large files to email messages. Zip files larger than 5 Megabytes. Downloading large attachments without a network connection is time consuming and cumbersome for those who are away from the office.
It is best to have information available in some share folder, intranet, etc. The email should point to the location. This will significantly minimize email box sizes and storage requirements.

Responding to Email

Use “Reply to All” sensibly. Before you hit “Reply to all” think of who needs to receive the reply to minimize email clutter. Often, it is sufficient to reply to the originator only or a subset of the original list. (e.g. If five people “Reply to All”, 25 messages have to be read.) Respect the time of your colleagues and only respond to those who have a critical need to know.

Please do not reply to ALL with simple items like below. Reply to sender only.

I will follow up
Where is the document, where is the file
Call me to discuss

Review the list of names in the “to” and “cc” boxes before you send. Especially note if there are outside people (customers) copied on the email and determine if the message is appropriate to send to them.
If you are the recipient and a request has been made and you will have difficulties fulfilling the request, immediately respond with your difficulties, don’t ignore it.
Update subject line appropriately if the topic being discussed in the email body is changed.


Be courteous to your colleagues and treat them with respect through the content of the email messages. Keep the content of the messages positive and factual.
Be clear and concise. The first sentence in the email should always provide a clear reason for the message.
Check if the message is internal or external and include appropriate language (e.g. Company confidential, etc.).
When referring to deadlines, respect time zone differences.
Always request assistance, never assume it or demand it. Watch the vocabulary: “I need your help to gather the following data” works better than “I need the following data”. This is vital when communicating with people you do not know well or when communicating internationally. Examples exist of normally reasonable employees who have strong dislike for each other who have never met or never spoken to each other on the telephone – all because of poor word choice in early emails.
Sending an email does not relieve the sender of accountability or shift ownership. “I sent him an email but didn’t hear back,” is not a permissible statement.
If you add or delete names on dist list, declare it at the beginning of the message (e.g. adding Joe Smith or reducing distribution list, etc.)
If you do not want the message to be forwarded to others, please add “Do not forward or copy others. Thanks” at the beginning of your message or reply. Sometimes, replies from others may not include that message and the original message get lost in the body. Remember to include the request again in your subsequent replies.
If your email does not get a response, try a polite reminder. If the reminder gets no response, try the phone. Electronic systems, like people, are not perfect.
Read your message before you send it. Edit and correct where appropriate. Does it convey what you want to say? Is it clear? Accurate? Are the action items or questions clear and concise? Due dates included where appropriate?
Run spell check. This can be automatically setup when you hit the send button.
Email is a permanent record and might be accessible to others. Do not include inappropriate content that may embarrass you or the company.
All email is discoverable in litigation.
Simple rule of thumb – do not state in email anything you don’t want to read later in a newspaper or on the internet!

Dealing with Conflict

Don’t send email when angry, even if there seems to be provocation. If an email message is composed under stress or when angry, walk away, cool down and come back and read the message again before you send it. (Sleep on it!)
Keep your email messages objective and factual. Avoid back and forth escalation into “flame” email. If provoked, reply with a request to take the topic offline and use face-to-face or phone to resolve the conflict.
More than one “email loop” between 2 people with a cc list should STOP and the subject should be taken off-line!
It is ok to agree to disagree. The two parties should summarize their points of view and the conflict and then present to the management and the cc list.

Escalation through email

Be very clear that you are escalating a subject
Specify in the email header (first line) that you are adding higher level management to the cc list for escalation
Do not skip levels when escalating; escalate gradually one level at a time as needed.
If you won’t say it face-to-face, don’t write it in an email message.
Don’t use email as a mechanism for embarrassing or attacking another employee or assigning blame.
Managers should never deal with non-routine personnel issues via email.
Problem solving should generally be done by telephone or in person, not by email. Never attempt to solve difficult or complex problems with people you don’t know well through email.


If the audience is multinational and includes individuals with different native languages, eliminate complex words and national idioms. Keep the message short and concise and make the required actions very clear.
When requesting information or asking multiple questions, avoid running paragraphs of words, separate them into enumerated items with spaces in between to enable the recipient to clearly respond to each item.
Choose neutral words, keeping in mind that the written word can be easily misinterpreted by the reader.
Leverage formatting (bolding, coloring, indenting, bullets) to highlight and add clarity to your message and to grab the reader’s attention (e.g. AR items highlighted in orange or red color)
Don’t type in all caps as it can be considered as shouting.
Always re-read the email from the recipient’s perspective – speak to the audience.
As a courtesy to the reader, edit your email for clarity and brevity. Keep in mind that many people read the emails on mobile devices. If the email is too wordy, they may not read the whole message and wait to access the message from their computer. This can lead to delays in response time.
When sending email to customers, remember that even though email is meant to be informal, it is a representation of you and Company. Take time to make the communication look and sound professional. Use common sense when forwarding email to non-Company individuals, especially if you are forwarding email originated by a Company employee.


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