Proper email etiquette is like good table manners. If you have them it goes unnoticed, but if you don’t everyone remembers and you look bad. You don’t just grab a handful of mashed potatoes and shove them in your face, just like you don’t start your email with “hayyy wuz up”.

One of the most important communication techniques to know in the workplace is email. Using proper email etiquette when communicating with coworkers and others outside of the office is key to maintaining your professionalism. Follow along with these five easy tips for basic email etiquette.

Welcome to Email Etiquette 101!

1. Make your subject line clear.

Your subject line should clearly state what the email is about. This is the first impression the reader is going to receive. RadiCati, a technology market research firm in California, did a study on email statistics. They found that in 2014 business users sent and received an average 121 emails a day. That should help make it obvious that if you don’t communicate in the subject line what a recipient should expect to read, they probably won’t read it because it’s not going to catch their attention. The research also found that the number is expected to grow to 140 emails a day by 2018. Looks like we better start practicing preciseness!

For example, say a demolition company is about to tear down a building in the city. They’re going to send out an email to all of the businesses around the area telling them everything they need to know about the process and how it affects them. Example of subject lines for an email like this could be:

  • Good: “Upcoming Wal-Mart Demolition: What you need to know.”
  • Bad: “Wal-mart Demo”

2. Reply in a timely fashion.

Time is money. If an email requires a response, respond as quickly as possible. A maximum 48 hour turnaround is standard. This doesn’t mean you need to sit on your email all day long and answer every email as it comes in. If you did that, your work would never get done. Kevin DeYoung, author of Crazy Busy, suggests checking your email a couple times a day, perhaps once in the morning, once in the middle of the day, and again toward the end of the work day.

Linda Sowers, a college professor at the University of Missouri, also suggests a way to make email as painless as possible. Her method to respond to emails efficiently is by replying to the ones that only require a quick response as you read it. If the reply is going to take some time, put it in a folder labelled as “to-do”. Block out a time in your day to answer all of these “to-do” emails. This insures all emails will be responded to in a timely manner.

3. Use appropriate language.

Think about who you’re writing to. If you’re emailing for business:


  • Avoid using inappropriate words.
  • Do not write anything that you wouldn’t want to be repeated. Remember, just because you delete an email doesn’t mean it’s gone forever!


4. Use an appropriate signoff.

When writing a signoff, think about what your email content is about. Don’t say “thanks” if there isn’t something worth gratitude in the email. For example, you wouldn’t say thanks in an email to your boss when putting in your two weeks notice. “Cheers” is sometimes seen as unprofessional when used in a business email but may be a good option when communicating with coworkers you have a closer relationship with. There’s nothing wrong with a good old fashioned “sincerely” to use as your signoff!

5. Call when it’s needed.

If the email you’re replying to is about a complex matter, pick up the phone and call the person or have a face to face meeting. Emailing can elicit miscommunication or misinterpretation of tone, and unnecessary conflict is the last thing needed in the workplace.

It’s also more personal to discuss serious matters on the phone rather than through an email. Employers complain that this seems to be a problem found among the younger generations. Don’t be afraid to pick up that phone!

You’re ready to send out awesome emails!

Some of these basics may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t follow these simple emailing etiquette tips. If you feel like you’ve mastered these five easy tips, check back in to our blog next week for more advanced email etiquette tips. Until then, I hope you’re practicing!

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