13 Essential Email Etiquette Tips You Need to Follow

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How many emails do you receive each day?

How many emails do you send each day?

I remember when I first started getting emails (back in the 1990s) and it was super exciting (remember that movie You’ve Got Mail).  Who was communicating with me?  That little ding that my computer made had me interested to know what was inside my email inbox.

These were the days before spam and the days before everyone in the world was using email.

Spam broke my love of email.

Suddenly I may have gone from 10 or 20 emails a day to 200 emails a day, and having to spend time trawling through the “junk” to find the “gold” became “work” and that kind of work, is less than fun (and frankly a waste of time).

It got to the point I’d spend over an hour every morning wading through emails to decide just what was worth reading versus what to delete straight away.  Fortunately, email programs now have much better junk and spam filters so lots of those emails no longer hit my inbox, but I still get at least  50 emails a day that I have to think about and reply to (which takes lots of time up).

This is why email etiquette is important.

Now I know that none of you love spam either, but there are a few email etiquette rules you may be inadvertently breaking that really annoy others.

13 Essential Email Etiquette Tips You Need to Follow

1. When to Use Reply All

This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when answering emails that have been sent out to a group.

Before you hit reply-all think first, does everyone really need to know my answer or is it just the person who sent the email that needs to hear from me?

Most of the time, it’s just the person who wrote the email, particularly if you’re saying “thanks” or replying to an invitation.  Using the reply-all option willy-nilly can add tens to hundreds of emails to an already overstuffed inbox each week and creates a lot of unproductive time.  Remember that many people now get notifications on their phones and devices of new emails coming into their inbox and this can be a total distraction.

Only use reply-all if you are adding useful and relevant information to a group discussion that everyone needs to be in on.  If it’s anything else, I beg you, please refrain from this practice!

2. What to Put in the Subject Line

Let people know what the purpose of the email is about (particularly if there has been an ongoing email exchange and the subject line is no longer relevant).  Add a clear subject line that explains the purpose of your correspondence.

3. Use a Salutation

Unless you know the person really, really, really well, always use a salutation.  A simple Hi Imogen is enough, as it can appear rude not to include this in an email, as an email is not a text message, it’s more like a letter, which always includes a salutation.

Avoid getting too friendly or unprofessional, no Yo or Hey unless it’s to a friend, but not in a work context.

4. Use an Email Signature

Particularly for work emails, include a signature on an email when you reply if you don’t know the person who has emailed.  Your signature should include a phone number and any other relevant ways of contacting you and even a little about you.

And using an email signature will help stop you from adding a few accidental kisses to the end of your professional emails (just don’t do it unless you’re good friends with your work colleagues).

5. Use a Professional Email Address for any Work Correspondence

If you are contacting people related to your work, if you are a small business, make sure you’re not using a Gmail or your hosting provider’s email address.  It’s simple and easy to set up email accounts if you have a website that reflects your business.

If you work for a business, use your business email address, not a personal one when emailing in a work capacity.

6. Avoid CAPITALISATION of Whole Words and Sentences

Yes, in the written form, capitalisation is SHOUTING.   Use correct capitals at the start of sentences and with proper nouns, other than that, please don’t use it.

7. Use Good Grammar and Punctuation

Don’t forget punctuation. It’s easy in an email form to start writing like it’s a text message.  This can make you look either:

  • Lazy
  • Uneducated
  • Not very smart

Now I’m sure that you wouldn’t want people to think any of those things about you.

Avoid overuse of exclamation marks too.

8. Try and Shorten the Email Chain

If you’re trying to arrange something with someone, try and shorten the email chain by letting them know exactly when you’re available or the like.  Include enough specific information such as times and dates that you’re free and ask if they can choose from them.  This will help declutter both your email inboxes and speed up the process.

Alternatively, pick up the phone if it will speed up the process.

9. Send to One Email Address Only

Many of us have multiple email addresses.  Just send your email to one of them, the one that is most relevant to your enquiry.  For example, I have an email address for each part of my business.

  1. @insideoutstyleblog.com  – this is for all my blog and program related email
  2. @aopi.com.au – this is for all my personal stylist and personal colour analysis training email
  3. @bespokeimage.com.au – this is for all my one-on-one and consulting related business

When you send an email to multiple email addresses it can confuse the receiver who can’t remember which email inbox they replied to the message or where they filed it.  Pick one email address and keep using it.

10. Include Their Message in Your Reply

Don’t delete their message when you reply to an email.  If the person you are corresponding with gets masses of emails, they may not remember your exact enquiry, and keeping the email string together can be a quick reminder of the conversation you’ve already had.

Context is important for many of us who do lots of things, come into contact with lots of people and try and get through lots of emails at a time.  Don’t delete the context!

11. Never Email Angry

It’s way too easy to dash off an angry missive when someone has annoyed you.   It’s always worth thinking about the long-term consequences of your email so that you don’t burn bridges unnecessarily or do damage to yourself, the relationship or your career.

If you do write an angry email, walk away from your computer before you press send!  In fact, leave the email reply in drafts until you are quite calm and rational.  Then re-read it and decide if you still want to send it or not, and if you do, if you need to tone the language down.

12. Humour is Personal

And a final reminder that humour can be very personal.  One person’s funny is another person’s rude.  Tone doesn’t always come through in emails.  Be wary of humour unless you know the person very well and know how they will react to what you are sharing.

13. Check Your Spam and Junk Folders Regularly

With spam, junk, promotion folders now part of our email, it’s worthwhile regularly checking for emails that have accidentally been put there by your email host.  This way you won’t miss important emails that you actually want to receive.

That’s my list of things that drive me up the wall.  Tell me, what are the email etiquette mistakes you see most frequently.

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14 Comments

  • Why this article. Where are the fashion posts. I deleted myself from this blog, but found myself back on, so that might be something you could check

    • Hi Lynn, sorry but I don’t understand what you’re asking me? Can you please clarify.
      Are you asking: Why email etiquette? Because it’s part of the ABCs of image – appearance, behaviour and communication. Yes, I write more about style than anything else but I also cover a few other topics as well.

  • One person replies to emails by using a red font and filling in the answers to questions right at the end of sentences in my original email, or even in the middle of sentences. It’s very disconcerting when I’m used to seeing a real message in reply.

  • Thanks for this reminder. I read this and thought I have slipped into writing emails like they were text messages, especially when doing so on my phone.

  • Great tips Imogen !
    specially not writing an email when upset. When I do I leave it in the draft box and come back to it the next day… i usually end up editing the entire thing!

  • Hi Imogen
    I recently forwarded something to you. I can’t quite remember the context myself now. So seeing this post has reminded me that as I hesitated to forward that item – I should have not sent it. It’s the problem of familiarity from reading your blog for many years.
    I have similar familiarity in a work context with clients I have only know via the phone or email. I would never presume to initiate contact with them. It would seem inappropriate. I apologise.

  • Hi Imogen, I have found this post on email etiquette really helpful. This is the way we live now and I am entering a new age of communication with all this in my older years, so really need these tips. Thank you so much. Margaret

  • Hi Imogen. Great post and very relevant today. What bothers me the most is how many people don’t read their email over before they hit “send”. It is astonishing how leaving out one small word can make the difference between the recipient understanding an email, and not. It is surprising how many business people come across as uneducated because they don’t re-read their text before sending their email. Thanks again.

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