Eight Tips for Email Etiquette

Sarah Dysthe

An estimated 4.1 billion people will own email accounts by 2015. With that many people online, communication is bound to get messy. Below are some pointers for making email communication effective and efficient in everyday life.

1) Write with Intent

As silly as it sounds, you should have a reason to send an email before you send it. When you decide on the reason, the email you write thereafter should coincide with it. If people receive emails from you that are pointless or confusing, they probably won’t read them. Even more, if you continually send irrelevant, annoying messages that have no value to the recipient, they will likely start deleting them before even opening.

2) Use Relevant Subject Lines

Sometimes people confuse the term “subject line” with “write a long-winded sentence that says everything your email says but in less words.” Surprisingly, the emails that get the best response have short subject lines of no more than 3-4 words. An effective subject line pertains to the email’s content and peaks interest but leaves enough unsaid that the recipient will open the message and read it.

3) Be Concise

Before writing an email, ask yourself if the content is appropriate for electronic communication. If you have a lot to say or your message becomes convoluted, an old fashioned phone call might be your solution. Yes, it requires the exchanging of words with mouths, but it could end up saving both parties a lot of time. As a rule, emails should be brief and easy to understand. Save the short essays for love letters and online forums.

4) Don’t Get Fancy

Technology is awesome, especially when it allows people to customize digital communications with their favorite font or text color. In terms of email, however, fancy fonts, bright colors and patterned backgrounds are not necessary. They detract from the email and may be a bit too loud for some recipients. Keep emails simple. Use a standard font and color and let your message be the focus.

5) Use Full Sentences

In instances where you’re writing a quick response, a few words or short phrase will suffice. If you’re reaching out to someone or asking a question, however, full sentences are necessary. People don’t want to guess what you’re trying to say nor do they want to try to make sense of a sentence that is the length of five. Complete, coherent sentences are your best bet for quick, efficient conversations that are meant for email correspondence.

6) Avoid Emotional Responses

Sometimes we receive emails that make us want to smash our keyboards. Resist if at all possible. It doesn’t make the email any less infuriating when you want to respond but all you have to type with is broken pieces of plastic letters. Give yourself some time to respond. In the same way emails are meant for lengthy conversations, they’re also not ideal for heated exchanges. Close the message and digest what it says before writing a response. Also, consider if you should respond at all and if you do, if it should be done online.

7) Appropriate Tone

Although this may disappoint some people, emails are not the place to remind everyone of the writing style that got you that “A+” grade in your high school Lit class. Nor are they meant for showcasing your massive vocabulary. Choose a tone that matches the intent behind your email. If you’re writing a personal email, use a conversational style that fits your relationship to the person. For business matters, a professional tone is your best bet, even when you have a close relationship with your client or colleague. It will show people you know how to separate work from personal matters.

8) Spell Check

It should go without saying, but check an email for spelling errors prior to sending, especially when writing in a hurry. Misspelled words not only take away from the meaning of the message, they can also confuse a reader or give them the impression that you’re careless or uneducated. Type up the email, give it a 2-minute proofread and click send.


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