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Tips for Perfect E-mail Etiquette

Already in the 1980s, emails were sent around the world and their number is constantly increasing. Email communication has passed the stage of stammering. However, many emails have a tone too casual, which has no place in business emails in particular. Many recipients appreciate a message written in a suitable way, so it is necessary to assimilate certain principles of the etiquette of email.

Most of the rules that prevail for writing a correct email are about how the classic letter was written before the digital era. However, email has special features that you do not have to worry about when writing a regular letter. What should you be careful of so that your email reaches the recipient (in both senses of the word)?

When designing an email, it is the purpose of the message and your relationship with the recipient that will be decisive. Emails sent to friends or family members will be governed by much more flexible rules than those intended for business partners: by dealing with this familiar group of people, who are generally well known even outside of email communication, communication types are developing which only work within this group or are correctly understood only within this group. What is considered rude or misplaced during an exchange with a third person is sometimes completely understood if it is two friends. Therefore: a strict email etiquette can only apply to the business world. Indeed, you know better than anyone how to communicate with your friends and acquaintances.

Etiquette of emails: what should you watch out for when writing a professional email?

If you want the recipient of your work email to take you seriously and not be bothered or annoyed by it, follow the general rules that apply to the email label. Two aspects are important. The first concerns the content and design of the text, the second covers the formal and technical aspects that are important for sending e-mail. The first condition generally applies to every letter, whether electronic or postal. The second is related to the singularity of the media and therefore exclusively concerns emails.

Rules for content and text design

In order for the recipient to receive your email in a positive way, you must already pay attention to a few points when writing.

Length of the text

When writing a business letter, the general rule is as informative as necessary, as short as possible, because today most people receive countless letters every day and read them can sometimes take a lot of time. You relieve the recipient if you give up unnecessary passages, get right to the point and provide essential information. However, all this must not be done at the expense of accuracy and courtesy.

Politeness and courtesy

According to the mail rules, each letter begins with a greeting. This also prevails in digital communication. However, because of the use of instant messaging (like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger), SMS or chats, many users have meanwhile become accustomed to new standards of written language. Be careful however: the emails follow another label. The ways used in the different chats correspond to the rules of face-to-face communication. For professional emails, on the other hand, we always wait for greetings and appropriate politeness.

The important thing when choosing the formula is above all to respect the hierarchy and the degree of familiarity. The safest choice remains "Madam, Sir", as well as "Sincerely" or "Best regards" which shows even more respect to the person.

Grammar and spelling

Nowadays, emails are written much more often than a few years ago. In addition, many people also quickly write an email from their smartphone when they are on the bus or train. The absence of concentration and vigilance is inevitable. However, this should not be an excuse for typing errors, syntax errors and spelling mistakes. Making the effort to check one's own texts for errors may also be a sign of to the addressee. If it does not matter to you that the recipient has to decipher your error-prone text, then it means that the recipient is of little importance to you. This is at least the signal that sends such a sloppy text. Many email applications now have an automatic spelling check. Do not count too much on it and check yourself your text.


The punctuation marks retain all their importance and meaning in emails. Using multiple exclamation points in a line is of no use. A single exclamation point is perfectly sufficient to express a certain urgency. Any other exclamation mark may seem overwhelming or unfriendly.


Each text requires careful formatting to make it easier for readers to navigate through it. It already starts with the use of paragraphs: a plan within the text helps structure the content mentally and establish meaningful contexts. It is the same for writing in italics or words in bold. Such markings attract the eyes to the most important passages. However, this only works if they are used sparingly. When writing the email, you must also ensure that the font, size and color are readable. The purpose of text formatting is to make reading easier for the recipient.


Abbreviations should be used sparingly in emails. There are two reasons for using (unusual) abbreviations. The first is that you usually have to decipher them. The reader must find words from letter sequences, which is not always as obvious as with familiar abbreviations "eg. Or "etc". Some abbreviations are so special that the recipient may not know them. It also seems very practical to abbreviate every little thing and even the polite phrases. However, the real meaning is lost, since a "Cdlly" instead of a "Sincerely" conveys no user-friendliness to many people, but only leaves the impression that the recipient was not worth the trouble. Write an entire and correct form of politeness.

Your tone

In written correspondence, the intent and tone used can not be translated correctly and can therefore be misunderstood. The reader does not see your mimicry and does not hear the tone of your voice, so he can not know if a statement is exaggerated and must be taken as a joke. Ironic is very difficult because it comes from the fact that you say things differently than you really think. In cats, the use of smileys and emoticons has been put in place to show that a statement is not quite serious. Nevertheless, they are not welcome in the exchange of professional emails. Therefore, you must avoid satirical hints, irony and sarcastic humor in emails. Favor a down-to-earth and friendly tone.

E-mail address

The first email address we create is rarely used professionally. It is often created to exchange emails in a private setting. This is often recognizable by the user's name. Names like "Teddy", "Cutiepie" or "Sweetheart" are certainly very positive but are not suitable for the exchange of emails with colleagues or business partners or during an application. If you do not use a general business address (for example, [email protected] or [email protected]), you must ensure that you correctly insert your name into the address when you create a new one. This will seem clearly more serious than hiding behind a pseudonym. Ideally, do not use free e-mail providers, but rather decide on a clean domain name. You are not only identified before the @ sign, but the next part of the address can also include the name of the company.


In many business areas, employees receive dozens of emails. In order to classify e-mails quickly and assess their urgency, a relevant object is required. However, the subject field is not appropriate for a summary or for an inaccurate description such as "A question", "Small service" or "Appointment? ". Be concise and precise in the field of the object. As a general rule, do not mention that you have an application, but clearly indicate what your application refers to.

Should it be an email?

In many situations, we look for writing an email, although a short phone call is more suitable. This is particularly the case when facts need to be discussed and the pros and cons must be brought to light. In this kind of situation, communication by email is a waste of time. What will be clarified in five minutes by phone can sometimes correspond to several days of email exchanges.

Before sending an email, you should always consider whether the conversation is likely to lead to conflict. Writing an email, professional or otherwise, under the influence of anger is usually a very bad idea. In such a situation, it is strongly recommended also to privilege the oral communication, in order to avoid that the situation escalates and ends up deteriorating. Look for personal dialogue and make sure your interlocutor does not misinterpret your words.

Anyone who sends a professional (or private) email should also realize that the content can be saved for a certain time. You have no control over what the recipient decides to do with your email, where he backs it up and to whom he transfers it. So, you should always think carefully before writing sensitive data. Even when you are convinced of the integrity of the recipient, email remains a security risk: in order to avoid spying by third parties, you should secure your messages by encrypting them with SSL or PGP.

What does the perfect email look like?

The perfect email in the professional environment is characterized by its informative and courteous tone. In order for this to apply to your emails as well, you should invest the necessary time in writing. The effort is worth it: a message that adheres to the email label is much better perceived by the recipient than a professional email written in a hurry and full of mistakes. In the long run, email etiquette also contributes to the positive development of business relationships.


Chris Macomber   |   

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