Know the basics of email etiquette; the do’s and don’ts of electronic communication.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Email

Every language and every media has its rules; some explicit, some implicit. And like so many things, not everybody agrees on what is the definitive list of do’s and don’ts. Netiquette applies to much more than email, of course, but we’re talking about the basics here. So, for the purpose of this PD Tile, the focus is on knowing and observing the following set of 6 basic rules in your emails:

The Subject Counts

A thoughtfully written subject line tells your recepients what your email is about and, in essence, tells them implicitly how to deal with your email. A vague or absent subject is likely to put your email at the end of the “to-read” list. A short, descriptive subject line is a way of respecting the fact that your recepients might have a lot email to deal with.

No Yelling

Using caps in written electronic communication, especially email, is the equivalent of shouting. But this parallel to yelling is not limited to caps: oversized fonts, loud colors, even bold characters are sometimes perceived as inappropriate by many. It is best to steer clear of elaborate text formatting in email unless absolutely necessary. There are elegant email newsletters that make proper use of text formatting, but is usually preferable for your everyday emails to avoid the formatting tools altogether.

Be Color Kind

Unless you are emailing a friend or family member, it is often best to keep your emails sobre. Use of color for fonts, backgrounds images or colors, animated GIFs, script fonts and other elements of the sort are often regarded as poor design, gaudy, amateur, or simply silly. Avoid them if possible.


Keep it Short

An email is not a letter. It should deal with a single subject in a straightforward fasion.


Proper Reply

Avoid replying to a list of recipients unless your reply is relevant for each of them. The “Reply all” button is not an option to show other people that you care or that you read the original email. Very often, replying to the sender is sufficient.

Proper Attachment

Opening an attachment is asking your recipient to take more steps in reading your email; make sure it’s worth it. People tend to find it very annoying to open an attachment for content that could have been in the email per se. This is especially true of people who open a lot of their emails on a smartphone or other mobiles device. When an attachment is appropriate, make sure it is of email-appropriate size; multimedia files seldom are.


Proper Delay

Answer your emails within 48 hours, even if only to say you’ve received the email and can’t offer a full answer right away, and wait at least 72 hours before sending a reminder on an email you sent.



There are always exceptions, of course. Like so many things, critical thinking and sound judgement are key. But if you find yourself circumventing these basic rules often, chances are you should question why.

Want to know more? Here are a few resources that can help you master some of netiquette’s most subtle rules:

Do’s and Don’ts of Email Writing – by Laura M. Brown, author of “How to Write Anything”

12 Do’s and Don’ts of Email Communication, Bob Whipple, Leadergrow inc.

Do’s and don’ts of Email writing, My English Guru