Ten Rules for E-Mail Etiquette

Using e-mail is such a snap that sometimes we forget it is still a form of business communication, not unlike a business letter. Here are 10 rules of basic e-mail etiquette that you and your staff can follow to make sure your office communication is professional and effective.


  1. Write a subject line that summarizes the body of the e-mail. A good subject line allows the recipient to quickly identify important messages. For example, instead of Subject: Claim, say Subject: Additional Information for Claim No. 34544. Also remember:
    • It is best to address only one subject per e-mail.
    • If you change subjects during a back-and-forth round of e-mails, be sure to change the subject line to reflect that.
  2. Keep your messages concise.  Keep messages brief and to the point, but include enough contextual information at the beginning of the e-mail for the recipient to know what the matter is about.
    • Don't assume the recipient knows the background. To continue the example above, rather than simply typing in the additional information, preface it with: "Here is the additional information for Claim No. 34544 that you requested during our phone conversation yesterday."
    • Keep the thread. When replying to an e-mail, use the reply option. This will keep the message in the "thread," and make it easier for the recipient to follow. However, if an e-mail has gone back and forth several times, you may want to delete extraneous parts of the thread.
  3. Designate priority correctly.  Avoid marking an e-mail "high priority" when it is really normal priority.
  4. Lay out your message for readability. Use spaces and breaks between paragraphs and long sentences to make it easier on the reader.
  5. Use correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Using e-mail does not excuse you from writing properly. Use complete sentences and all those other things your English teacher taught you.
  6. Avoid overusing acronyms, abbreviations, and emoticons. They are okay within reason, as long you are sure the recipient will know what they mean.
  7. Keep download size to a minimum.  Big graphics can make e-mails take a long time to load. Check with your recipient before sending a big attachment with your e-mail.
  8. Don't be overly familiar with the recipient. As a rule, use the title or form of address that you would use in verbal communication.
  9. Use the BCC field when sending bulk e-mail.  If you're sending e-mail to a whole list of people, put their e-mail addresses in the BCC field. It protects your recipients from spammers and keeps the address portion of your e-mail short.
  10. Wait to fill in the "TO" in the e-mail address.  This will keep you from accidentally sending an e-mail prematurely. Fill out "TO" last.



Content review date: 6/09/2010

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Last Updated On

May 30, 2019