28 Best Practices for Email Etiquette in the Workplace
Updated June 29, 2023
A woman stands pointing at a list with the title "Etiquette Guidelines for Writing Emails" and these tips:
- Use a professional email address
- Always include a clear and concise subject line
- Use appropriate greetings and sign-offs
- Consider your audience
- Proofread your emails
Regardless of where you are in your career, using best practices for email etiquette allows you to communicate clearly and make a positive impression on potential employers, business contacts and customers. Communication is essential in the workplace, and being a great communicator can help you become more successful. You can become a better communicator by learning how to use communication tools, such as email.
In this article, we discuss why email etiquette is important and share 28 best practices for email etiquette in the workplace.
What is email etiquette?
Email etiquette is the code of conduct that guides behavior when writing or responding to emails. Depending on the recipient of your email, you may modify the principles that determine the proper etiquette. For example, email etiquette changes when you write to a friend, colleague or business acquaintance.
Why is email etiquette important?
Your communication reflects your character, work ethic and attention to detail. Companies may benefit from implementing best practices for email etiquette for these reasons:
Professionalism: Using proper email etiquette conveys a professional image of the organization.
Efficiency: Emails that follow etiquette are direct and concise, conveying their message quickly.
28 email etiquette guidelines for the workplace
When sending or replying to emails, here are some best practices for email etiquette to keep in mind:
1. Use standard formatting
Standard fonts, such as Times New Roman or Arial, colors and sizes are appropriate for business emails. If you use bold or italics, try not to use them on more than one word or a string of words in a single email.
If you're copying and pasting text, clear the formatting before sending the email because it could appear different from the rest of your text. To clear formatting, you can use "Command + \" on a Mac or "Ctrl + Shift + N" on a PC.
2. Include a clear subject line
Title your email so the recipient knows what the message is about. For example, if you're emailing to follow up on a presentation, you might write, "Quick question about your presentation." Emails with clear and brief subject lines often have better open rates, so it's useful to be descriptive without sharing too much information. Also, consider how much text the email provider can display in an inbox so that your message appears complete.
3. Email from a professional email address
Use a company email address if possible. Though, if you're self-employed or using a personal email address for work-related correspondence, ensure that your email address doesn't contain any words that some might consider unprofessional. If so, then consider setting up a work-only email address.
4. Use the correct email format
A business email has a specific but simple structure, which includes a subject line, greeting, body and a sign-off. The body of your email may be in short paragraphs. Organize the information in the body section so your recipient can easily understand your message.
5. Use professional greetings
Choose a salutation that's appropriate for the relationship you have with the recipient. If you're emailing a coworker, a casual greeting such as "Hello" may be appropriate. If you're contacting someone for the first time or if they're a professional acquaintance, use a more formal greeting like "Dear Sarah Atkins." It's recommended to use the person's name exactly as it's shown in their email signature line. This means don't assume someone named Jennifer goes by Jen unless you've seen them sign their emails that way.
6. Use an introduction
Depending on who you're emailing, it's best to introduce yourself by your first and last name and the company you're representing in the first few lines. This is especially important when emailing new contacts, clients, potential customers or employers. Let them know how you received their contact information.
Example: "My name is Jessica Franklin and I'm with White Label Agency. Mark Gregston gave me your name and suggested I contact you regarding your amazing printing services."
Related: How To Introduce Yourself Over Email
7. Choose your salutation and sign-off carefully
When sending a business email, choose appropriate salutations. This can help your correspondence appear more professional. Examples include:
When ending your email, use a formal sign-off such as:
8. Be cautious with "Reply all"
The benefit of using "Reply all" is that you can respond to everyone at once to let them know you're addressing an issue. When in doubt, use "Reply" to avoid inundating a list of people with unnecessary emails. To determine which to use, consider the information you're sharing and who it most affects.
9. Avoid using all caps
Use sentence case as you would for any formal communication. It's unprofessional to use all caps; doing so can misconstrue your intentions and meaning.
Example: "Anne, it was great seeing you at the meeting. I look forward to connecting again soon."
10. Double-check attachments
If you can copy and paste information into an email rather than attaching a document, do that. If not, let the recipient know in the body of your email that you're attaching a document. It's also good etiquette to compress the documents or attach them in a zip file so it takes up less space in their inbox. In addition, you may want to consider uploading documents to a shared location and giving the recipient a link to access them.
11. Shorten links
When sharing a website, use a link shortener to shorten the link or hyperlink text within the email. Including links in this way can help your email appear clean. A short link is also easier to copy and paste into a web browser.
Proper spelling and grammar are important when sending business correspondence so always proofread your work before you hit send. Likewise, double-check the spelling of the recipient's name and email address because autocorrect may alter names. You can install plugins to check your writing and find errors automatically.
13. Don't use emojis
Even if the recipient has used emojis when communicating with you, resist the temptation to use them yourself. They can come across as unprofessional in certain company cultures. Instead, you can express emotion with words and your tone.
14. Reply within 24 hours
When someone emails you, replying within 24 hours is common courtesy. If you've unintentionally passed this timeframe, apologize and politely explain the delay. In your emails, you may provide a gentle reminder about time sensitivities so that the recipient members to reply quickly.
15. Keep your tone professional
Think carefully about your word choices in an email and how others may interpret your intention. Use positive words, such as "opportunities" and "challenges," instead of "obstacles" and "limitations." Avoid negativity, sarcasm and adjectives that can cause you to sound overly emotional.
16. Perfect your email signature
An email signature is a special text box that displays your contact information at the bottom of an email. A signature typically includes only your name, job title, company website and phone number. If you don't have an email signature, creating one is useful because it can make your emails appear more professional.
17. Use Bcc appropriately
Bcc stands for blind carbon copy, which is similar to Cc except that the email recipients specified in the Bcc field don't appear in the header or to the recipients in the To or Cc fields. Using Bcc is good etiquette if you want to protect someone's email address rather than exposing it to others.
For example, if you're emailing a group of subcontractors about a change in policy or procedure, it's considerate to Bcc everyone on the list.
18. Think before forwarding
A good practice for forwarding is to summarize what's being discussed, so the recipient quickly knows what you need from them. It's also important to remember that some emails may contain private or sensitive information, so you might not be able to forward them. Use caution when forwarding and ask permission from the original sender if you're unsure to whom you can forward the email.
19. Set informative out-of-office replies
If you plan to be out of the office for an extended period, set up an automated out-of-office reply to let people know you won't be able to respond to their emails until a specific date. Include a contact name if there's an urgent matter. Include "Out of Office" and the date in the subject line so recipients can quickly recognize that they've received an automatic response. It's also helpful to include the first line in the message as: "This is an automated message while I am out of the office."
20. Reply to all your emails
It's polite to respond to all the emails you receive. If you receive many emails, you can sort the spam emails and unsubscribe from email lists where you no longer want to participate. Senders may even appreciate a brief response to their emails so they know you're receiving them.
21. Refrain from using humor
Humor is very subjective and may not be appropriate for email correspondence. Your recipient may misunderstand a joke. Instead of humor, you can entertain your recipient with a light and positive tone.
22. Be aware of cultural differences
What's appropriate in your culture may be insensitive to another, so it's important to recognize cultural differences and remain respectful. You can do this by researching the person to whom you may send an email. You can also be aware of cultural differences by increasing your self-awareness.
23. Use discretion
Use caution when sharing information over email because it may not remain confidential. Be sure to protect private or sensitive information about yourself and others. For example, don't share passwords over email.
24. Embed your answers
When replying to an email with three or more questions, you may embed your answers. This organizes the information for the recipient and may make communication easier. When you embed your answers, you can just copy and paste the questions from the previous email and include your answers underneath each question.
25. Include a call to action
A call to action is useful in emails because it informs the recipient of what you want them to do with the information. For example, you may request your colleague to provide feedback on your work or ask that a team leader share the information you give with their team. It's effective to include your call to action at the end of your message so that the recipient can take action as soon as they finish reading your email.
26. Check your open rates
An open rate for email measures how many people click and read an email. If you use software that tracks the emails you send, you can see who opens your email. This is useful for cold emailing and if you have a mailing list you may use open rates to determine who to send reminders to if they don't open a previous email.
27. Write the email address last
Consider inputting the recipient's email address last. This prevents you from accidentally sending an email before you finish it. If you click send early, the email doesn't send because there's no address.
Related: Guide to Reply All Email Etiquette
28. Ensure your message is mobile friendly
Many people read their emails on their mobile devices. With this in mind, ensuring your email's easy to read on a phone or tablet is polite. You can also make your email mobile-friendly by keeping your message brief.
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