James has six years' experience as a Content Marketer, bylines on Left Foot Forward, Submittable, and INOMICS, and a Master's in History. In his free time he likes to read, play guitar, and write for his personal blog.
Whether you just got promoted to a new position where you need to communicate with clients, or you're an experienced manager, your business email etiquette can be a determining factor in your communication success.
Proper email etiquette is essential when you’re sending a message to a coworker, business partner, prospective client, or manager. Business emails should be short and professionally written.
Even though some can be more warm and friendly, business emails are not casual exchanges. Professional emails should be actionable and written straightforwardly.
Email etiquette incorporates social recommendations that affect the way people communicate with each other through email. These guidelines can slightly differ by company, industry, and even from one generation to another.
Nevertheless, the core of proper business email etiquette remains the same: communicate clearly and respectfully.
If you email constantly with a person and develop a relationship, you can start using more casual language, but make sure to still keep your email's tone professional.
This guide will help you to follow proper email etiquette at work, which in turn will mean your email recipients are more comfortable collaborating with you.
Why is email etiquette important
Having good email etiquette will help you establish yourself as a professional, help you communicate better, and smooth your career path.
It will make it more likely for people to respond to your emails in a positive way and do business with you, all while making misunderstandings less frequent.
Let’s take a look at proper email etiquette in the workplace and see some great professional email etiquette examples to help you establish better communication in the business world.
Improve Your Email Communication
Designed for business owners and freelancers using Outlook, Gmail and Apple Mail.
You've probably received an email that sounds rather harsh, like the sender is scolding you, just to find out later that they were in fact happy to share that information with you.
To avoid this scenario, one of the most important rules of email etiquette is to avoid using sarcasm. Instead, write your email positively and keep a professional tone to avoid people misinterpreting your intent. Reading startup booksis quite helpful in building business acumen and improving your professional tone.
Avoid making grammatical errors
Even if you got an A+ in grammar, chances are you will make grammatical errors and spelling mistakes from time to time.
A study has shown that people who make a lot of grammatical mistakes in short emails are considered less conscientious and trustworthy.
For this reason, your best bet is to install a browser extension, such as Grammarly, that will highlight your errors, suggest better word choices and make sure your spelling is correct.
Here are the most common stylistic and grammatical mistakes people make in their business emails. Avoid making them to follow adequate email etiquette in the workplace and maintain a good reputation.
Repeating words too often
Overusing the passive voice
Create a professional email signature
Having a professionally-designed email signature can do wonders for your business. It can help you make it clear who you are and how can people contact you. When designing a signature, don't forget that less is more.
Your email signature should be rather small, simple, and easy to read. It should contain your name, job position, company website, and phone number.
It's best to add your signature automatically at the end of each email - you can always delete it from your message if you don't need it.
Sometimes you might have the urge to add a smiley face to a potentially harsh email or end a joke with a laughing emoji. And the truth of the matter is, in some industries, using emojis in the subject line might boost the email open rate. In fact, a study by Adobe shows that using emojis makes you seem friendlier and cooler.
Nevertheless, to follow proper email etiquette in the workplace, unless your intended recipient has already used one, or you are certain that it goes well with your brand's image, resist the urge to use emojis. They can come across as too casual and unprofessional, so make certain your recipient is the correct audience before using emojis.
Never assume that your email recipient knows who you are. If you’re emailing someone for the first time, after the initial greeting, always begin your email's body with a short introduction about yourself.
If you’ve previously talked to this recipient, but you're unsure if they remember you, subtly remind them how you know each other and when was the last time you talked.
Properly structure your emails
Every professional email should look a certain way and contain a few important components, such as a subject line, a proper greeting, a text body, a sign-off, and a signature.
To make your message easier to read and understand, always divide these sections into paragraphs. Your email body should be short and to the point, beginning every new paragraph with the most relevant information.
If you think there’s too much info in your body, you can always use bullet points to add more structure to your writing, or try and cut out superfluous information.
Write a short and descriptive subject line
Great subject lines give the intended recipient an idea of what the email contains and whether they want to open it. Here are some email etiquette examples when it comes to good and bad subject lines.
Bad subject line: “Hi” The example above makes it totally unclear why you're emailing them.
Good subject line: “Summary of January 15th call”
Subject lines like the latter make it very clear what the content of the email is.
Choose a proper email greeting
Based on whom you're sending an email to and your relationship with the recipient, your greeting can be formal or informal. In most cases, it's okay to start your email with a casual salutation. This will give your email a more friendly tone and will make you sound more confident. Here are some excellent greeting email etiquette examples.
Casual email greeting examples
Good [morning, afternoon, evening]
If you’re emailing someone for the first time, it's always better to be more formal.
Formal email greeting examples
Dear [first name]
Dear Mr./Ms. [last name]
Email etiquette don'ts when greeting in a professional setting
Yo - Too childish and informal
Hey! - Too intimate and eager
[Name]!: Too off-putting
To whom it may concern: Too impersonal
Dear sir or madam: Too stiff
Gentlemen: Too old-fashioned
All: Too cold
Make a good impression with the proper email sign off
Finishing your email the right way will further reinforce the tone of your message. This is your last chance to leave a good impression on your recipient, as it’s the last thing they'll read in your email. If your tone is more light and friendly, end with a warm sign-off.
Consider using the following professional email etiquette examples when doing formal business.
Have a great day/week/weekend
Great working with you
Use standard fonts and formatting
One of the biggest email etiquette don'ts is using peculiar fonts, wild colors, and eccentric formatting. You might think making your email look unique will make it more memorable, but in reality, you’ll look like you don't know basic communication norms.
Instead, always use the standard black font and standard font size. Also, don’t overuse bold or italics - they can be distracting.
And if you’re copying and pasting text into your email, highlight it and clear the formatting. (Command + \ on a Mac, Ctrl + Shift + N on a PC.) If you don’t clear it, that part will look different from the rest of your email.
Fill out email fields correctly
To: This one is pretty straightforward. Fill it out with the email address of the recipient.
Cc: If you’d like someone else to see this email, add their address here. When you Cc someone, you let them see the message, but don't expect them to respond. It's important to Cc someone when you want them to read some relevant info in the email, or you want to connect them with the main recipient.
Bcc: Bccing adds your contact to the email, but only they will see they've received the email.
Use Bcc properly
If you want to protect someone's email from being exposed to the rest of your recipients, you can use Bcc. For instance, if you’re sending an email to a group of people with info about an upcoming event, you can Bcc all emails, so you don't expose the emails to all recipients if you don't have permission. In other words, Bcc can enable someone to see an email without anyone being able to see them.
Use 'Reply all' with caution
Reply: The Reply button lets you directly respond to the person who emailed you last. Keep in mind that if you reply directly to the first message, you will reply to the main sender of the email. However, if you reply to someone else’s email in the thread, you will be replying to that person only.
Reply all: The Reply All button will let you email everyone who is included in the email. The main perk of Reply All is making sure everyone in the thread is informed that a particular issue has been addressed.
Think twice before forwarding an email
There are a few essential things to remember when it comes to forwarding emails. Some emails are not meant to be forwarded, such as private emails or those that contain sensitive information.
If you’re forwarding a long email thread, summarize the content to make it easier for the recipient to understand what exactly you want from them. If you want your new forwarded email to be the first thread of a new email, just add your own comment to the subject line.
Same Thread Subject Line: FW: Notes from the meeting with Hannah
New Thread Subject Line: Check this out! FW: Notes from the meeting with Hannah
Respond on time
Data shows that the average office worker receives 121 emails a day. With our overwhelming schedules and busy work days, it’s no surprise that most of us don’t respond to emails right away.
But still, when it comes to email etiquette for business professionals, there is an appropriate response window for different roles. If you’re emailing a teammate from your company, do your best to respond within 12 hours.
If you received an email from a colleague whom you don’t work with directly, it’s expected of you to reply in the next 24 hours.
If you can’t address the issue within 24 hours, let them know you’ve gotten their email and will follow up within a certain period of time. When you receive an email from external contacts, it’s perfectly acceptable to respond by the end of the week, unless the email is marked as urgent or needs a response as soon as possible.
If it's a contact who is of high value to you or your company, it might be worth it to respond ASAP or within 24 hours.
If, on the other hand, you work in customer support, you should know that most customers expect to get a response to their email more quickly than that.
It’s not news that sending emails takes up a lot of time. However, responding to emails in a timely manner helps keep everyone’s work on track and communication on a high level.
An excellent way to spend less time dealing with sending emails and doing work that matters is to schedule your emails.
This will enable you to write your emails whenever it suits you and send them whenever you like, without appearing unprofessional.
Email etiquette FAQs
What are the five rules of email etiquette?
The recent uptick in textspeak and the prevalence of social media have changed our written communication. Many of us forgo grammar rules for the sake of speed and convenience.
But when it comes to emails, common courtesy and proper etiquette are still important! There are five main email etiquette rules:
The way you write and structure your business emails is a direct reflection of your attention to detail, character and work ethic, and attention to detail.
Every business professional and company can benefit from implementing good email etiquette, as properly written emails can convey the following:
Professionalism: Proper email etiquette shows the professional image of the company and the person communicating.
Efficiency: Emails written with good email etiquette are straightforward and to the point, conveying their message quickly and efficiently.
What are the four important elements of email etiquette?
The subject line: This is the most important part of any email, as it can be the deciding factor whether the recipient reads or deletes your message.
The greeting: The beginning of your email sets the tone for the whole message. Through your salutation, your recipient can judge your intent, who you are, what you want from them, and whether they will continue to read.
The body: Long, unstructured emails are a huge turn-off to anyone. Make sure your email text body is short, concise and structured properly.
The sign-off: The way you sign off your emails is equally important as the way you begin them. Always end your emails professionally by making it clear what you expect the recipient to do, but do it in a subtle and never in a pushy way.