50 Well Guarded Secrets About Business Email Etiquette

50 Well Guarded Secrets About Business Email Etiquette

Email may be important, but if you don’t communicate the right way, you could actually harm your business.

There are some business email etiquette rules and guidelines you can follow to make sure your email communication is solid. Here are 50 tips.

Business Email Etiquette Tips

Have a Professional Email Address

Before you even start emailing, you need to make sure that your actual email address is appropriate. Ideally, you’ll have an official email address that ends with your company’s URL. But if you do use a personal Gmail account or something similar, just make sure that you keep it simple with your name or initials, instead of trying to get cute or funny.

Include a Direct Subject Line

In each email, you should include a subject line that accurately reflects the content of the email. Just a few word summary will give the recipient an idea of what to expect before they actually read your message.

Only Use ‘Reply All’ When Necessary

When you get emails that include everyone in your organization or even a few people, you might be tempted to just include everyone in your response. But this can lead to a lot of wasted time for people if the message isn’t relevant to them. So use care and only reply all when it’s absolutely necessary.


You don’t want to take the time to craft a great email message only to have it littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. So take a minute to proofread and spell check before sending so you can catch any potential errors.

Re-read for Tone

But you should also actually read through your message with a mind on how your recipient will read it. Sometimes, tone can get lost in email. So just make sure it reads how you intend.

Mind Your Manners

And of course, you should include niceties like please and thank you in each message.

Keep it More Formal for Clients/Superiors

There are plenty of different levels of formality when it comes to email. So make sure you consider your relationship with each person before you get too comfortable. “Hey guys” might be an appropriate greeting for your friends. But when dealing with clients, you probably want to keep it a little more professional.

Use Formality for New Contacts

Likewise, it’s a good idea to keep things pretty formal with people you’re emailing for the first time, until you get to know them well enough to change it up.

Use an Acceptable Greeting

More specifically, you’ll want to consider the greetings you use for each person. Generally, you should keep “Hey…” to people you know fairly well. “Hello” and full names are more appropriate for clients or first time contacts.

Stick to the Point

In the actual body of your email, you’ll want to keep it as short as possible. Don’t make the recipient read a novel just to figure out what your main point is.

Break Up Long Messages

If you do have multiple points to make, break up the text with different paragraphs or even numbers to make it easier to read.

Be Clear with Your Call to Action

You should also consider what you want the recipient to do with your message. If you’re looking for them to reply with a specific piece of information, tell them that right at the end of your email.

Use Care with Acronyms and Jargon

If you’ve included any acronyms or industry specific jargon in your emails, consider the knowledge of the recipient. If you’re dealing with clients in different industries, for example, you might want to include a little more information than you would with your co-workers.

Consider Your Closing

Then at the end of each emails, you’ll want to pick out an appropriate closing statement. Use something like “thanks,” or “best,” for business emails.

Include a Signature Block

You can also include a signature block that includes some more information at the bottom of your emails. Include your name and some contact information.

Make Note of Any Attachments

If you are attaching any documents to an email, let the recipient know what it is so they don’t have to open it just to find out.

Don’t Forget to Attach

It’s also fairly common for people to say they’re attaching something and then forget to actually do it. So double check before sending.

Check the File Size

But use care when attaching large files. Only do so when absolutely necessary. Or you could try re-sizing photos or breaking up the file to smaller pieces to make it more manageable.

Zip Large Files

When you do have to attach large files, put them into a .zip file to make it easier on your recipient.

Ask About Those Attachments First

It’s also good practice to ask your recipient if it’s okay to send a large file beforehand. And then find out when would be the best time for you to send such a file.

Inquire About File Types

In addition, check and see what programs your recipients have access to so you can be sure they’ll be able to open the attachments you send.

Send PDFs When Possible

But PDF files are simple to view on any type of device. So if possible, send PDFs instead of files that require a specific program.

Don’t Open Attachments from People You Don’t Know

On the other side of that equation, when you get an attachment in an email that you weren’t expecting, be careful about opening it. If you’re unsure about something, ask the sender about the attachment before actually opening it.

Don’t Share Confidential Information

Since emails are so easy to forward and share, or to accidentally send to the wrong person, it’s not the right format for sharing any sensitive or confidential information.

Use Caution with Humor

You also might be tempted to add in a little fun or humor to your emails. But since it can be difficult to decipher tone in emails, just make sure it’s very clear or keep the jokes to people you’re really comfortable with.

Stay Away from Silly Fonts

Email also isn’t the right place for you to get creative with design elements. Stick with fonts that are classic and easy to read.

Stick with Black and White

Likewise, stay away from unique font colors and background patterns. Classic black and white is the easiest to read.

Limit Use of Exclamation Points

Exclamation points can help you convey a sense of excitement or emphasis. But don’t use them in excess or your message won’t seem as professional.

Use Caution with All Caps

All caps can also add some emphasis. But it can also come across as screaming. So unless it’s actually necessary, consider using italics or something instead.

Only Use Emoticons with Certain People

When it comes to smileys and emoticons, keep those to conversations with friends and close co-workers who you know won’t misinterpret or see them as unprofessional.

Consider Different Cultures and Languages

You might also sometimes correspond with people from different cultures or backgrounds. So be sure to consider that when crafting your responses so you don’t offend or confuse anyone.

Step Back Before Sending Emotional Messages

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to send an angry or otherwise emotional email, craft your message then step away for awhile to clear your head. Then revisit the message later to make sure it’s actually what you want to say.

Reply to Accidental Messages

In situations where you receive an email that wasn’t intended for you, reply to the sender to quickly let them know.

Confirm Receipt for Messages You Can’t Get to Right Away

And if you get an email that was meant for you but isn’t something you can respond to fully right away, just let the sender know that you received it and when you’ll be able to get to it.

Start a New Email Chain for New Subjects

When emailing someone who you correspond with frequently, it can be tempting to keep just one chain going continuously. But this can make it difficult for you to keep your conversations organized. So start a new chain for each new subject.

Only Forward Messages When Necessary

Forwarding can be a useful feature for email users. But it can also be overused. So before you forward any messages, just make sure they’re actually necessary so you aren’t bombarding people with emails.

Add a Personal Message When Forwarding

When you do find it necessary to forward emails, add a personal message at the top to explain instead of just hitting forward and making the recipient read through the entire email without context.

Check Content Before Forwarding

And if you’re forwarding a news story or any type of information that you can’t personally vouch for, do some quick research to verify the accuracy so you don’t end up wasting anyone’s time with information that isn’t correct.

Don’t Add People to Email Lists They Didn’t Sign Up For

If you have any group email chains or lists that you send emails to regularly, only add people to that list if they’ve given you their permission.

Politely Ask to be Taken Off Lists You Didn’t Sign Up For

And if you’re ever added to a list that you didn’t sign up for, don’t be afraid to contact the sender and politely ask to be taken off.

Give People Enough Time to Respond Before Sending Reminders

If you’ve sent an email and haven’t gotten a response, you might want to send a quick reminder. Just make sure you’ve given the person a day or two to respond, depending on how long it normally takes them to do so.

Check Your Spam Folder

It’s also a good idea to check your junk or spam folder before sending reminder emails to people — just in case they already sent it.

Use Away Messages When on Vacation

When you go on vacation or out of the office for more than a day or two, set up an auto-reply or away message so people will get a quick response when they email you.

Let People Know When You’ll Reply

In that message, include the date you’ll be back in the office and when you expect to be able to return emails so they’ll know when to expect a response.

Give Them Another Contact for Urgent Matters

And just in case any inquiries are particularly urgent, include another contact within your business that they can get in touch with.

Add the Email Address Last

If you’re drafting a brand new email, start with the subject and content before adding the recipient’s email address. This will prevent you from accidentally sending it too early.

Double-check the Recipient

You also want to make sure you’re sending it to the right person. So always double check that before you send.

Triple-check Name Spelling

And go back and check one more time that you spelled the person’s name correctly in your email. You can’t be too careful in this instance.

Make Sure Your Name Displays Correctly

You should also make sure that your own name displays correctly in your signature and the sender field.

Delete Quickly If Necessary

Some email clients like Gmail have a feature that will allow you to delete sent emails if you do so right away. So if you forgot to double check anything, delete the email quickly before it actually gets to the recipient.

Email Photo via Shutterstock

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found on her personal blog Wattlebird, and exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

9 Reactions
  1. Thanks for tackling this important topic with such a comprehensive and well-explained list of “to do’s.” This should be required reading for everyone that uses email!

  2. I don’t think that these are really secrets. Some of them are obvious and must really be done if you want your reader to take you seriously.

    • When people miss those seemingly obvious ones, it can have a really negative impact

      • She doesn’t realize how many oblivious or careless people are out there. I think it’s a good reminder list.

  3. It is important to consider that you are talking with a real person. When you consider this, you will phrase your email differently.

  4. I agree. Email is just a form of communication that is done online. Have the same courtesy as if you are talking to the person face-to-face.

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