Email Etiquette – 7 Tips for Proper Email Writing

By Amanda Watson, Marketing Coordinator (Portage, IN)

At the request of John Phair, Holladay Properties' IT Director Chris Hatfield recently put together an Email Etiquette presentation for employees of Holladay Properties. The main idea for the presentation was to not annoy people you are emailing and to get better responses to your messages. So, here are 7 lessons I learned from the presentation that I think we all need to keep in mind when writing emails.

  1. Use good subject lines

    • Do not leave the subject line blank - it may be perceived as SPAM.
    • The subject should be a summary of the email content. Outlook enables you to search using the subject line so an informative subject line help later searches, as well as telling your recipient what the email is about.
    • Don’t write the whole email in the subject’s just annoying and unprofessional.
    • Keep in mind, if you’re forwarding an email and changing the subject of the original message, remember to the change the subject line or you may surprise and/or confuse your recipient.
  2. Email: Urgent or NOT urgent

    • Mark your message as Urgent only if a message is actually urgent.
    • Marking all of your emails as Urgent is like crying “Wolf!"
    • Remember, that Urgent marking tends to lose its effectiveness the more often it is used.
  3. Keep emails short

    • Don't write a book.
    • Do get to the point.
    • Whenever possible, write shorter emails that get directly to the point you want to make.
    • Keep in mind, shorter emails are easier to read.
    • With the advent of social media, people are less inclined to read. If your email is bulky, people tend to skim and will miss important parts of your message.
  4. Use proper grammar

    • DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS (this is like shouting)!
    • Use proper punctuation.
    • Your email client most likely has spell-check...use it.
    • Read your message aloud before sending; if it doesn’t sound right to you, it probably won’t sound right to your recipient.
  5. Don't email when angry

    • Take a minute, re-read your email before sending or ask a friend or co-worker for advice.
    • There are no “Are you sure you want to send this” warnings in email, so take a breath, calm down, and then decide if the message should be sent or not.
  6. Remember, email is NOT private

    • This is the “Digital Age” – an email that you think goes from you to your recipient actually travels through several servers and routers across the internet until it arrives at your recipients email client, which means almost anyone can get their hands on your message.
    • Since your emails are vulnerable, don’t write something that would embarrass you or your employer.
    • Remember that all email in “discoverable” in a lawsuit and follow the above tip.
    • Email is backed up daily by your email client and can be saved forever, so deleting it from your inbox, doesn’t actually delete the message.
    • If you don’t want someone reading your private message, don’t put it in writing.
  7. Reply All: Use sparingly

    • Only use Reply All when everyone on the email needs to see your response!
    • There is a time and a place to use Reply All, but think about who needs to see your reply and send it to the appropriate parties.

If you’re interested, for further education on email etiquette, here's a video you might enjoy:

What do you think of our suggestions? Do you have any other rules for email etiquette? Share them with us by commenting on this post.