Essential Email Etiquette Rules for Workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Email communication constitutes a significant portion of our professional life. While we try to read and answer emails more efficiently, it is essential that we keep proper email etiquette in mind. Following commonly accepted social rules while communicating through email helps you create a positive image in the minds of employers and professional contacts. In this article, we discuss what email etiquette is and list some essential email etiquette you should follow at your workplace.

What is email etiquette?

Email etiquette is a set of commonly accepted social rules others expect you to follow while communicating through email. These rules or principles of social conduct vary based on the purpose of your email and the audience you are communicating with. For example, the style of writing an email to your friends and relatives may be different from the one you use for your employer, which again may be different from that meant for your subordinates.

Why is email etiquette important?

It is essential to follow proper email etiquette because the way you respond through your emails reflects upon your personality and professionalism. Here are some important reasons for following best practices in email communication:

  • It increases clarity. Following email etiquette makes your communication clear and free from errors.

  • It brings efficiency. Following email etiquette makes your communication precise and focused, thus saving time for all the parties involved.

  • It improves your image. Following email etiquette positively impacts the way people think of you. It conveys an image that you are professional and organised.

  • It protects you from legal liability. Following email etiquette minimises the chances of committing mistakes that may be legally binding on you.

Essential email etiquette you should follow at workplace

Following are some of the common email etiquette you should follow at the workplace:

Add a clear subject line

A clear subject line tells the recipient what your email is about and increases the chances of their opening your email. Keep your subject line simple, short and specific to the content of your email. You may write it in phrase form like ‘Schedule of the Meeting', ‘Purchase Invoice Attached' or ‘Performance Appraisal'. Alternatively, you may also write it as a sentence, such as ‘Please attend the seminar' or ‘Kindly send the details of your expenses'. As a general rule, you should retain the same subject line when replying to an email.

Use a professional salutation

Be sure to use a professional salutation in your work-related emails even if the recipient happens to be your friend. You may add something like ‘Dear [name of the recipient]' or ‘Dear Mr./Ms. [last name of the recipient].' Use the complete name of the recipient even if you use an informal short name while communicating orally.

Introduce yourself

If you are writing to someone for the first time or addressing someone who may not know you, it's a good practice to introduce yourself. However, keep the introduction brief and use a non-promotional tone. Include your complete name, job title and company name. Consider mentioning how you came to know about the recipients, and how your email can be helpful to them.

Example: “I am Jay Raghuvanshi from Namaste India Travels. My colleague from the marketing department, Mr. Ved Prakash told me that you are interested in our tour planning services.”

Add your signature

A signature block contains your name, designation, company name and contact details. You may also include links to your social media profiles. You can set up your email to automatically include your signature in all outgoing emails. Place your signature block a line or two below the closing of your email. Format it to look similar to the rest of the content in terms of font type, size and style.

Use a professional email ID

Use your official email ID if your company has given you one. If you are using your personal email address, exercise caution in choosing it. Remember that your email address is a part of your identity. Ensure that it is appropriate for professional use. Consider choosing an email address that includes your name instead of something that sounds too informal like ‘prettygirl@email.com' or ‘daydreamer@email.com'.

Use standard formatting

Choose appropriate font, colour and size so that your emails are easy to read. Arial and Times New Roman are among the popular fonts people use in formal communication. Consider using black as the default colour. Use a soft colour like yellow if you need to highlight a specific portion of the text. If you choose to make some text bold, underlined or italic, make sure you do it only for words and phrases instead of entire sentences.

Read more: How to Write and Properly Format Business Email Messages

Know your audience

The tone and style of your email should be suitable for the audience you are writing to. It would be best if you were more cautious while writing to someone from a different culture, since they may interpret words differently than what you intended. Hence, it is always better to gain some understanding of your recipient's background and tailor your email accordingly.

Maintain a professional tone

Choose your words carefully to reflect courtesy and positivity. If you are angry at someone, give some time to calm yourself down before you sit down to write an email. Consider using positive words like ‘please', ‘good try', ‘thank you' and ‘better luck next time' instead of negative words like ‘careless', ‘failure' and ‘disappointed'.

Be clear and precise

Since the recipients cannot see your body language while reading your email, you need to write your message clearly and precisely to avoid any likely confusion and miscommunication. Be cautious with using humour and sarcasm since the other party may not interpret it the same way in the absence of facial expressions and vocal tone.

Keep your email short and focused. Use short sentences and organise the content into small paragraphs. State the reason for writing the email so that the recipient knows what you are going to discuss. Use specific references while referring to any previous communication.

Maintain confidentiality

An email message serves as a written proof and is extremely easy to forward. Hence, be careful with what you write. Include only such information, which you are comfortable sharing with others. It's better to discuss highly confidential matters like a sensitive business deal over the phone or in person instead of through email. While sending email to a large group of people, consider using the ‘bcc' field to protect the privacy of your contacts.

Minimise the use of exclamation marks

It would help if you barely used any exclamation mark in a formal email. Use a single exclamation mark (!) instead of a string of marks (!!!) if at all you need to use any. Ensure that your email is free from emoticons and chat jargons like LOL and ROFL, since they would make your message sound too informal.

Mention the attachments

If you are attaching a file, mention it in the email so that the recipient doesn't miss it. You may write something like “Please refer to the attached document [name of the document] for more details.” Give appropriate file names to the attachments for easy identification. Double-check the attachments to make sure that you added the right ones.

If you are attaching large files, it's always better to compress them and let the other person know that the attachment is large. The other option in such cases is to upload the files externally and include their link in your email.

Proofread your message

Always make it a point to proofread your emails before sending them. Read them aloud to yourself for potential typos, misspellings and grammatical errors. If you are busy, save them as a draft and proofread them when you get time. Double-check the ‘to', ‘cc' and ‘bcc' fields to ensure that you are sending your email to the correct recipients. Consider adding these fields after drafting your email so that you do not send an incomplete email accidentally.

Respond to all emails in time

You should respond to all legitimate emails on time. Except in case of emergencies that require immediate response, you may respond within a day or two depending on the urgency of the matter. If you happen to wrongly receive an email meant for someone else, let the sender know about it. If you have received a query and do not have an immediate answer, inform the sender that you have received their email and are looking into it.

Use the ‘reply all' feature only when necessary

The ‘reply all' button lets you send an email reply to all the people added by the sender. Use this feature only when you need to keep everyone informed. At all other times, just click on ‘reply' and add additional recipients manually. It will keep the thread clean and prevent others from getting inundated with unnecessary emails.

Set out-of-office replies

If you are going to be away from work for an extended period of time, consider setting an out-of-office reply to let the sender know of your unavailability at the moment. An out-of-office reply should include information on when you will be back and who the sender should contact for urgent matters.

Read more: Guide: Out of Office Email Messages (With Examples)

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