Web 2.0 for Professional Use/E-Mail/General E-mail Do's and Don'ts

General E-mail Do's and Don'tsEdit

When writing e-mails in the professional sphere, there are a number of important rules to keep in mind. By adhering to these guidelines, you and your company will look more professional and therefore receive more respect.

Be professional. (Don’t be cutesy.)Edit

a. Use a formal tone.

  • Especially when communicating with a stranger, a potential employer, your boss, anyone in senior management or a client.

b. Make sure your e-mail address is appropriate.

  • Generally, businesses provide addresses such as JSmith@company.com. If you do not currently have a company address or you are communicating about an issue unrelated to your current employer, make sure you are not communicating for business via an unprofessional address, i.e. Sassypants557@hotmail.com.

c. No slang.

d. No emoticons.

e. No non-standard abbreviations or acronyms.

Grammar & SpellingEdit

a. Proofread, proofread, proofread!

b. Mistakes look sloppy and unprofessional.

c. Some people recommend to leave an e-mail for a minute or two and then re-read it before sending it to ensure that everything is clearly explained and error-free.

d. Others also recommend filling in the To: field last, after you have proofread the e-mail, so as to make sure the e-mail does not accidently get sent before you have had the chance to proofread the message.#REDIRECT [[1]]

Tone via E-mailEdit

a. AVOID ALL CAPS—it looks like you are shouting.

b. Avoid irony or sarcasm—it is not always interpreted correctly via e-mail.

E-mail EthicsEdit

a. Don’t Bcc:

  • E-mail should be transparent and not used as a weapon.2

b. Cc: isn’t always appropriate either.

  • Don’t use cc: as a form of pressure for the original recipient.
  • Only use this option when the person in the cc: field knows why they are being copied on the e-mail.3

E-mail FormattingEdit

a. Use plain text, not HTML to ensure that your recipient can read the e-mail.

b. Control your URLS; long URLS can be reduced at www.TinyURL.com.

Be Concise!Edit

a. When you think it’s short enough, make it shorter!4

b. Be sure you aren’t rambling. (Partial thoughts & run-ons are confusing.)

c. Short sentences are best.

Subject LineEdit

a. Do not leave the subject blank—many people will skip over an e-mail with an unknown subject.

b. The subject line is the first thing the recipient sees after your name—it is important.5

c. Summarize the message; be precise and concise.

Limit recipientsEdit

-More personalized e-mails often evoke more response.

a. Privacy is important. Some e-mail programs provide a way to limit the e-mail addresses shown to only the recipients’.

b. Be cautious about “Reply All.” Only use this method when the information really is applicable to all recipients.

  • Also, habitual use of “Reply All” can be costly if you ever intend to send information about others involved to only one person.


-Avoid whenever possible.

a. If you must attach a file, make sure it is in the most general format available.

b. Often it is a good idea to ask permission from the recipient if you can send an attachment (especially if it’s over 1 Mb).6

c. Make sure the attached file has a clear, descriptive name (i.e. “Resume-Jane Doe,” not: “myresume draft 3-edited vers.”)6

d. Resize pictures to smaller proportions before inserting them to e-mails. For step-by-step instructions on how to do this, see About.com.


-Do not forward jokes, political propaganda or spiritual enlightenment chain e-mails to anyone’s work e-mail.

a. Ask if they have a personal e-mail and send it there instead.

b. If you do forward something to “all contacts,” make sure you know who “all contacts” includes.7

c. Many people find chain e-mails annoying. Make sure your recipients appreciate your forwards.

When looking for a responseEdit

a. Make it clear that you would like a response.

b. If you aren’t getting one, write this exact e-mail (nothing more) and it usually drastically increases the reply rate:

  • “I was under the impression that you were the person that ___________. Should I be trying to contact someone else?”4

c. If you get ANY type of response, even an unfavorable one, consider it a win.4

d. Only discuss one subject per e-mail.


a. Let people know their e-mail has been received.

b. Answer e-mails as swiftly as possible.

c. Set your system clock right.

d. Only mark an e-mail “high importance,” “high priority” or “urgent” if it truly is. Also beware that not all email systems will recognize this mark.

e. When replying to an e-mail, include the message thread to provide reference and context for the recipient.

f. If you receive a “flame,” or a personal attack via e-mail, make sure you take a few minutes to cool down before responding. Only respond with things that you would say to the person face-to-face.6 Remember, e-mail can’t be recalled.

Be responsible.Edit

a. Work e-mail is a public document.

  • If you wouldn’t hang it on the bulletin board, don’t put it in an e-mail.
  • E-gossip can easily be forwarded on to other co-workers, or even your boss!8
  • One analogy to think of is that e-mails are like postcards—people other than the recipient can easily read them.9

b. E-mail is forever.

  • Everyone involved in the transactions— the sender, the recipient and any computer system involved with transmitting the e-mail— may have copies and there is no way of knowing how long those copies will exist.

c. Know that your work e-mail may be monitored.

d. For the above reason, never e-mail a prospective employer from a work e-mail address.

e. Use current Anti-virus Software and keep it up to date.

Legal IssuesEdit

a. Many laws associated with traditional writing DO apply with e-mail correspondence.

b. The contents of an e-mail may be copyrighted, meaning that the author of the e-mail can control how and/or when the information is used.9

c. The 1st Amendment applies to e-mail. But, so do the regulations and laws that limit free expression.9

d. Add disclaimers to your e-mails to help protect your company from liability.3

When to communicate without e-mailEdit

a. Don’t use e-mail as a copout. If a phone call is in order, call them. Some suggest that if an issue requires more than three e-mails then it should be discussed over the phone. Another measurable mark is the length of the e-mail…over five blackberry screens or one to two print screens of information deserves a phone call.2

b. It is rarely, if ever, appropriate to discuss salary, promotions or confidential information over e-mail. Instead, send a one-line message: “I’d like to schedule a meeting about my performance. Thanks.”8


1. Dawn Rosenberg McKay, “Email Etiquette: Tips for Professional Email,” About.com, http://careerplanning.about.com/od/communication/a/email_tips.htm, (accessed October 9, 2008).

2. John Halamka, “My top 10 rules for Email Triage,” Life as a Healthcare CIO, http://geekdoctor.blogspot.com/2007/11/my-top-10-rules-for-email-triage.html, (accessed October 10, 2008).

3. “Email etiquette,” Emailreplies.com, http://www.emailreplies.com/, (accessed October 10, 2008).

4. Jason J. Thomas, “The Art of Getting Responses- 7 Cardinal Rules for Emailing Prospects,” Ezine @rticles, Web address not publishable on Wikiversity, (accessed October 10, 2008).

5. Heinz Tschabitscher, “Top 20 Most Important Rules of Email Etiquette,” About.com, http://email.about.com/od/emailnetiquette/tp/core_netiquette.htm, (accessed October 10, 2008).

6. “Top Ten Rules for Effective Netiquette,” The UCMC Job Blog, http://ulmercenter.wordpress.com/2006/11/03/top-ten-rules-for-effective-netiquette/, (accessed October 10, 2008).

7. “10 Emailing Rules When Communicating for Business,” Through the Eyes of a Recruiter, http://recruitnik.blogspot.com/2008/02/10-emailing-rules-when-communicating.html, (accessed October 10, 2008).

8. Peggy Post, “Peggy Post’s Golden Rules of E-mail Etiquette,” Good Housekeeping, http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/etiquette/email-etiquette-rules-peggy-post, (accessed October 10, 2008).

9. Todd Curtis, PhD, “Teach your child the Unwritten Rules of Email- Top 10 Email Realities,” Ezines @rticles, Web address not publishable on Wikiversity, (accessed October 10, 2008).