15 Tips For Email Etiquette In The Workplace

By Chris Kolmar
Jul. 26, 2022

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Emails are an integral part of our communications within the workplace, especially when looking at a workforce impacted by COVID. Many employees are working remotely, adding to the importance of having good email etiquette.

You might be an employer who has to send emails out to your staff, an associate who needs to confirm a meeting with a colleague, or a senior leadership member who has to correspond with the CEO.

No matter the purpose, knowing how to send a professional email with a clear, appropriate message is a skill that everyone in the workforce should master.

Key Takeaways:

  • Good email etiquette makes you look professional, and helps you communicate clearly and effectively.

  • Keeping messages concise, paying attention to spelling and grammar, using a formal tone are all examples of email etiquette.

  • It’s always a good idea to proofread what you’ve written and consider it carefully before pressing Send.

15 tips for email etiquette in the workplace

Why Do We Need Email Etiquette?

Having email etiquette is necessary because it can have a great impact on your relationships with coworkers and teammates. Oftentimes, calling a colleague or coordinating a meeting is not an option, or it simply is not as efficient.

Sending an email allows you to communicate more quickly, but because the face-to-face interaction is missing, additional considerations need to be made.

That is where proper email etiquette comes in, guiding you on your tone, formatting, and overall messaging to ensure that you build and maintain strong relationships.

It is easy for written communications to be misinterpreted, so by following certain guidelines, you can ensure that you have a well-crafted and thoughtful email. Sending effective emails is a crucial part of improving your overall business etiquette.

15 Tips for Email Etiquette

Emails are dispatched within a matter of seconds, but the consequences of a poorly written message are long-lasting. Here are a few tips for email etiquette that you can keep in mind:

  1. Have a solid subject line. The subject line of your email is the first aspect that the recipient will see. You want them to be able to read the subject line and immediately know what the email is in reference to.

    Keep it short and to the point – generally, no subject line should be more than two to five words. A clear subject line will entice the person to open your email more quickly.

  2. Pay attention to spelling. This tip is speaking directly to addressing your intended recipient. When starting your email, make sure that you have their name spelled correctly. Misspelling someone’s name is a common yet still very unprofessional mistake to make.

    Many times, the recipient’s name will be featured within their email address, but if not, check their contact profile to verify the correct spelling.

  3. It should come from your work email address. Nowadays, we have several email applications and accounts on our smartphones.

    Make sure that you are always sending work-related emails from your professional account. For one, your email may be automatically flagged as spam if you are considered an external sender.

    Aside from that, personal emails can sometimes contain keywords and phrases that are not appropriate for a work environment. Double-check to make sure that you are using the right account to send your emails.

  4. Reply only to relevant parties. There are many times we receive emails that are sent to multiple parties or come from a distribution list. Before sending back your response, consider if you need to reply all, reply to a few, or reply to one.

    When you automatically “Reply All,” your communication will go to every single person that was included in the original email, which can be problematic for several reasons.

    First and foremost, your colleagues do not want to receive multiple emails and see a conversation that is not relevant to their workflow.

    Additionally, if you are responding with sensitive information that others are not meant to be privy to, it can cause privacy issues. Before hitting “Reply All,” think about who really needs to be included.

  5. Adhere to confidentially and privacy standards. Depending on your line of work, you may regularly handle confidential information. When it comes to written communications like emails, there are certain policies and privacy laws that you, as an employee or employer, must adhere to.

    Take the utmost care with sharing confidential information such as a client’s social security number, tax information, or financial records. Verify you are communicating with the correct recipient and include all necessary disclosures.

  6. Be prompt. If you see an email in your inbox, check it. Good email etiquette involves being prompt and responding to messages in a timely manner.

    It may not be possible to always reply to emails within minutes when you have a busy schedule, but very rarely should more than a few days go by unless you are out of the office.

    In this case, you should leave an auto-reply, letting senders know that you are currently unable to respond, and provide a timeframe for them to expect a response.

  7. Use traditional fonts. While what you say is important, how your email looks also lends to its professionalism. You should use classic fonts, such as Times New Roman, and avoid using colors other than black.

    The recommended font size is typically 10 to 12 points, and the goal is to make the email as simple to read as possible. Other popular yet safe fonts are Arial and Calibri.

  8. Always consider your tone. As helpful as emails are in the grand scheme of efficient communication, there is a great deal that can get lost in translation. When writing your email, keep in mind that your recipient can not hear you, and oftentimes they may not know you that well.

    That is why you have to keep your tone in mind, as you want to avoid coming off harsh, angry, or abrasive in your message.

    A good way to gauge how your email will be received is by reading it out loud before sending it. Chances are, if any aspect of the email sounds questionable to you, it is a good idea to rephrase those points.

  9. Always reply. Now, you should always use discretion here. If you are receiving company-wide emails from the corporate office every week, you likely should not spend time replying. However, if someone emails you directly or includes you in a relevant message, it is a good idea to respond.

    This at least acknowledges that you received the message and confirms that you are aware of its contents. If you notice that you may have received an email by accident, it is also proper etiquette to let the sender know. That way, they can reroute the email to the appropriate party.

  10. Wait until the end to add the email address. This tip can help you avoid several of the most common email mistakes. Let’s say you have started writing your email but are still in the middle of adding the most important points. You get up, come back, and press “Send,” forgetting that you had not finished.

    If the email address is already in the addressee line, you’ve just sent an incomplete email to a colleague and will have to rush to send an explanation. Another mistake waiting helps you avoid is sending to the wrong person or forgetting to include additional recipients.

  11. Proof and reread your emails more than once. Always run your emails through a spell checker just as you would with any other professional document. Due to the convenience of email communications, people often forget that they still hold as much importance and are subject to the same scrutiny.

    Proofread your emails and read them back slowly at least twice to ensure that all grammatical mistakes are fixed.

  12. Consider the culture. Just as you should read the room before speaking, you should consider the culture and background of the person you are sending the email to. If you are writing professionally and adhering to company guidelines, it should be easy to make sure that your email does not contain any potentially sensitive terminology or nuances.

    That being said, always keep in mind who you are writing to and how they might best communicate or be communicated with.

  13. Avoid exclamation points. Exclamation points can convey excitement, but they can also come off as aggressive in certain contexts. Overuse of exclamations can also be unprofessional, as they convey emotion to the reader. If you need to use the punctuation symbol, try not to include more than one within your email.

  14. Try not to be a comedian. Depending on your company culture, humor may be a regular part of the job. Even so, be discerning when it comes to how humorous you want to be when sending out professional emails. Remember that people cannot see your face or hear your tone, leaving more room for your joke not to be received well.

    Showing humor is not always a no, but tread lightly and make sure it is appropriate for your relationship with the recipient.

  15. Remember that emails are forever. Even after you press “delete” from your inbox, your email still exists on a company server. That is why you should always keep emails professional and consider every correspondence that you release as a part of your permanent HR record.

    As long as you keep your emails focused on work and are mindful of good email etiquette, they will only work in your favor.

Do’s of Email Etiquette

  • Do use an appropriate salutation. When it comes to the right salutation, it depends on the nature of your message and the recipient. It is not always necessary to do a formal salutation, especially if you are doing a quick follow-up or have already corresponded several times within the email chain.

    A simple “Hi” may be okay when communicating with your team, but you will probably want to formally address someone that you are making initial contact with. Use your best judgment when it comes to salutations.

  • Do include a signature. You should include your signature at the end of emails, letting your recipient know how to reach you in the future. Most professionals have their signature saved within their email client, automatically adding it to the body of emails when sent.

  • Do check your grammar – twice. The importance of checking your grammar is one aspect of email etiquette that cannot be stressed enough. Do run a spell checker and do look out for misspellings that these tools may not pick up.

Don’ts of Email Etiquette

  • Don’t make assumptions. This applies to both the subject matter of the email and who you are in general. Make sure that your message is clear and concise while also giving the necessary background to the reader.

    Also, unless the recipient is someone you work with closely or has already developed a working relationship with you, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself. This does not have to be a long paragraph, but just a short sentence explaining what you do and how it relates to why you are reaching out.

  • Don’t use shorthand. Emails are not the same as text messages we send between friends, so avoid using any kind of abbreviations such as “LOL” or “OMG” in work emails. Emojis and emoticons should also be saved for avenues such as Slack, where these characters are built into chat communications.

  • Don’t write a novel. It can be easy to get carried away when it comes to writing an email but remember to keep it as brief as possible. While some emails are meant to be more in-depth, asking a question or requesting feedback should not involve several lengthy paragraphs.

    You should also consider overall readability in emails, breaking up text into a few sentences, or adding formatting such as bullets when necessary.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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