Fundamental Email Etiquette: 26 Easy Rules to Follow

Mind your manners when sending out emails


The rules of email etiquette are not "rules" in the sense that the email etiquette police will come after you if you don't follow them.

They are guidelines that help avoid mistakes (like offending someone when you don't mean to) and misunderstandings (like being offended when you're not meant to).

These core rules of email etiquette help us all communicate better via email, and it pays to know them.

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Take Another Look Before You Send a Message


Send once, look twice, and avoid embarrassing emails that have the wrong text go to the wrong recipient (or, aghast, recipients). So

  • allow every message at least some minutes of rest after you have finished it
  • before you tap or click Send.

In Gmail (and some other email services and programs), you can enable an unsend feature that gives you a couple of seconds to undo potential damage even after sending. Where this is not available, try leaving the To: field blank or entering your own email address so you are reminded to take a final look before sending.

Crowd. © James Cridland; CC BY 2.0 license

If "Reply" is good, "Reply to All" must be better. Is that right, though? More »

Businesswoman sleeping with her head on the table
This is not the idea. Maybe a shorter email is better (and she might not even have to print it). StockUnlimited

Do not intimidate recipients with too much text. Let your message be easy to read and grasp instead. More »

Do you think quoting original text in your email replies perfectly is a lot of work? Don't let the '>' intimidate you! Here's a very comfortable, relaxed, quick and still clean and compatible way to reply properly. More »

Do you make these silly errors in your email subjects? The key to getting your messages read, it turns out, is not to be clever. More »

Forwarding emails is a great way of sharing ideas, but make sure the original idea is not lost in obfuscation. More »

Not everybody can receive your fancily formatted emails. Some may even react furiously. To be safe rather than sorry, send plain text emails only when in doubt. More »

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Do Not Forward Email Hoaxes

Email hoaxes often contain stories that are intriguing and sure to irritate. So,

  • do not forward by email any story you have not investigated yourself using, for example,
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Use Antivirus Software, Keep Up to Date, and Scan for Free

Make sure you are not spreading worms and viruses via email or act as a vehicle for spreading spam. All this can be caused by malicious emails. Fortunately, there's protection:

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Explain Why You Forward

More and better communication makes better relationships. To forward emails and links in a way that shares relevant information and fosters ties,

  • Spell out, at the email's top, why you think the recipient will find interesting what you share.

Did the spam filter eat the message? Spare others this nagging question and let them know you got their email. More »

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Ask Before You Send Huge Attachments

Do not clog email systems, or do it only with permission.

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Talk About One Subject per Email Only

Help make the world less confusing. Try to talk about one subject per message only. For another subject, start a new email.

Comma, colon, hyphen and semicolon—all exist for a reason: they make it easier to understand the intended meaning of a sentence. Don't make life more difficult and possibly less interesting for the recipients of your emails. Pay some—though not too pedantically much—attention to punctuation. More »

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Use Acronyms Sparingly

DYK? Not everybody knows every acronym, and these abbreviations do not save that much time anyway. So,

  • use only very few acronyms, and possibly only if you can be sure the recipient knows their meaning.
  • be careful with religious acronyms, like JFC. You never know how religion will play across email.
When your photos look good in your email, you look good, too! Here's how to make sure your images are not larger than screens and mailboxes by resizing them in style — online and for free. More »

Do not shout in your emails more than you mean to. Text set in all capital letters is also difficult to read. More »

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Be Careful with Irony in Emails

No, really! I mean it. Honestly!

A medium that offers little context such as email is not suited well to irony and sarcasm, even if you do know the recipient.

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Catch Typos by Printing Your Emails

Do this for important, formal, career-tipping emails and love letters:

  • print the draft before you click Send.

On a printed copy and with a pencil in hand, you can often find typos or misplaced commas neither your spelling checker nor you yourself caught when proofreading on the screen.

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How to Avoid Embarrassing Emails

Avoid embarrassing emails by sending them to yourself only (by default). You can either

  • leave the ToCc and Bcc fields empty altogether or
  • enter your own address in the To field until right before you send the message.

Make sure you do not send messages from 1981; or 3078. More »

If you don't know how to say good-bye at the end of an email, there's one thing that will almost always be appropriate. Thanks. More »
Without a line sub-scripted "sign here", how do you decide where to place your email signature? Look here. More »
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Wondering "How to Put That in Writing", Write "That"

Have you noticed how people who you understand perfectly well when you listen to them become cryptic when they start writing?

Do not be like them. Tell it like it is—and how you would say it (not how you are used to seeing it written, possibly in a technical, academic or legal context).

Smaller is more beautiful, at least when it comes to email attachments. So make files smaller before your send them via email. More »
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Avoid "Me Too" Messages

"Me too" is not enough content, but it is too much annoyance.