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Email Etiquette Series – Email DOs and Don’ts

“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength” – Eric Hoffer (1902 – 1983)”

Whether it’s for personal or business use, understanding and exercising the basics of email standards email-257x300
can help avoid a lot of potential misunderstandings and can help us all communicate online a little better. This article serves as a general best-practices guide for operating an email account in today’s online world.

Email Etiquette

Choose your main email address wisely: It will determine (in part), how you’re perceived.

Use and update your Antivirus software: Make sure all your security software is up to date to avoid spreading spam and malware unknowingly.

Set up/correct your system clock: To make sure your message aren’t sent from 1976.

Update your email password regularly: You’d be surprised at how many email accounts have been unknowingly compromised over long periods of time simply because of static passwords. Reset your password every 1-2 months if possible.

– If you’re emotionally charged up/upset at the time of typing the email, perhaps take a break from the screen, walk away and reflect first before you type and send.

Acronyms: Take into consideration that the recipient may not know every emoticon and acronym under the sun.

Structure your emails in a readable way; bad grammar and improper sentence structure gives the impression of poor education and will spark concern about being taken seriously.

Don’t use ALL CAPS or TYPe LiKe THiS. Typing in caps gives the impression of screaming/shouting and mixed-case typing is annoying and not cool.

Signatures: This may be the last of your worries; but signatures affect the tone of every email you write. Make them as short as possible. Don’t use images and social networking icons (despite how cool you think they are); you’ll likely have problems with different mail clients. See Smashing Magazine’s excellent guide on The Art and Science of the Email Signature.

Review before sending: Always take another quick look at the content and who you’re sending to before hitting the almighty send button.

Keep emails short and to-the-point: don’t intimidate readers with huge blocks of text.

Use short and to-the-point email subjects: Put some consideration into the Email Subject, never use vague titles or “Hi”, Hello” etc as they’ll likely end up in the recipients trash/spam folder.

Don’t use bold or red text to emphasise your email’s tone: doing so can (and probably will) cause ambiguity, misunderstanding and general annoyance on the recipients end.

Let people know their email has been received. If someone went to the trouble of writing you a lengthy message and you can’t get back to them right away, let them know.

Always check your trash/spam folder first before getting upset about someone not responding to your email.

Plain text v. HTML: If you’re unsure, send emails in plain text rather than rich HTML – not everyone can see your prettily formatted emails the same way you do.

Autoresponders / Out-of-office replies: If your customers and/or contacts rely on your quick response, make sure you let them know before you switch on your autoresponders. Also don’t forget to add yourself a reminder to switch it off when you get back.

Privacy, Copyright

– Regardless of what is right and wrong; emails get stored and unknowingly forwarded all the time – take extra care in what you write and always keep this in mind.

– As above, forwarding a private email is copyright infringement, a breach of privacy and outright rude – always check with the author first!

DO NOT list all your contacts in the To: or Cc: field. What gives you the right to expose your contacts addresses to strangers?

If you’re forwarding to multiple people, use the Bcc: field – this will protect their email from being shown to other recipients they don’t know – privacy first, always!

– If a friend puts your e-mail address in the To: field with others you do not know, ask him/her to stop exposing your address to strangers without your permission.


Don’t forward random stuff unless you’re 100% sure the recipient is interested in the content.

Don’t forward without first editing out all the forwarding information – this means email addresses (especially), headers and commentary from other forwarders.

Political/controversial issues: Be careful here; the recipient may not appreciate/agree with your point of view.

Reply To All: Never use this unless you’re 100% sure all recipients are interested in the dialogue.

Include a courteous greeting and closing; a few injections of “thanks” and “please” can go a long way.

Configure your email client to show your From: field. First Name, Last Name; both properly capitalized. Not in all lower case; not in all caps. This will help to make sure your emails look legitimate instead of being misidentified as spam.

Ensure the Subject: field is clear and readable and reflects the point of the email.


Never send emails with unannounced large attachments without first getting approval from the recipient. Especially in the mobile computing age… Imagine receiving an email with a 10MB+ attachment on your mobile phone with pay-per-MB 3/4G usage.

– If possible, use file-sharing software such as Dropbox or Box for big files/attachments.

Resize your images: If you’re attaching images; resize them to about 600px (pixels) – this will greatly reduce download time. If you don’t have an image editor, use online resizing/resampling services such asresize2email

– If you’re sending files created by 3rd party software (Photoshop, Illustrator, Excel); make sure the recipient has compatible software to open them first. PDFs are industry standard now; so use them when possible. See this infographic if you’re not convinced yet.

– When sending large attachments, zip them first! I would consider a “large” email anything over 5mb. For a guide on compressing your files, see this page.