12 Most Courteous Rules for Email Etiquette

12 Most Courteous Rules for Email Etiquette

I wonder how many of us remember life without email. I have a vague recollection of waiting impatiently for letters to arrive. Sometimes it took days if not longer.

That’s no longer the reality. In our culture of instant gratification we expect instant answers and responses. It’s no wonder that our email interactions are a big part of our lives, both personal and business.

Email is here to stay and that’s why it’s important to remember the rules of proper email etiquette.

1. When in doubt, leave it out

Words can be misunderstood and used against you. Once an email is out there, it can’t be taken back. If you are worried about it ever being seen or read by someone, do yourself a favor and don’t send it. Call the person instead.

2. Using BCC will come back to bite you in the ass

In most scenarios, using BCC is kind of like talking about a person behind their back. It’s not cool in real life and definitely not cool in email. In one way or another, it will probably come back to haunt you.

When is using BCC okay and even desired? When you’re sending out an email to a group but don’t want everyone to be able to see everyone else’s email addresses. In that situation though, I do urge you to think twice and make sure everyone you are sending that email to really want to get it.

It’s also okay to use BCC to save emails to a CRM platform.

3. Spell check

Nothing says unprofessional the way an email can with spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. Take the few seconds and use spell check.

4. When forwarding emails, make sure you erase original sender’s information

When you forward an email, the original sender’s email address and name will show up. You need to make sure you erase those lines before you forward any email.

5. Acknowledge an email

Especially for emails that have important information, a question or a request, make sure you acknowledge that you received the email. A short thanks or got it will suffice.

6. Don’t send offensive emails

Think of opening an email like opening your front door. If I opened the front door and was bombarded with some of the offensive emails I receive, I would probably call the police.

Be careful with the emails you send out, both to protect your own reputation as well as to respect the person receiving it. This is especially true when you are emailing from a business account or for work. Again, once it’s been sent you can’t take it back.

7. Put a good subject line

The subject line is the first thing the person sees (aside from who the sender is) and will often help determine if and how fast the person opens the email. Using a good subject line also makes it easier for someone to find it again later.

8. Attachments

Don’t send attachments unless you can’t help it. Sending something as an attachment dramatically lowers the probability that a person will ever open it and see the content. Instead, copy and paste the attachment into the body of the email.

If you do need to send an attachment and you know that the person is okay with receiving it, make sure you zip big attachments.

9. Don’t use cap letters

It sounds ANGRY and RUDE.

10. Keep it short

If you can say something in one line instead of three, do it. Email takes precious time to read. Respect the other person’s time.

11. Check that you’re not forwarding a hoax

I should probably first say that, in general, do not send jokes, chain letters or group mails. When you do, make sure that it’s something worthwhile and that the people receiving it would  be happy to read it and willing to make the time to read it.

Sometimes we forward things that we think are important but are really hoaxes. Use Snopes or similar services to check whether the email you are sending contains factual information.

12. Don’t email when you are angry

When we’re angry, we often say things we later regret. If you are angry and feel you have to send an email, write it but don’t send it. Sleep on it and reread it the next day. Chances are you will either end up not sending it at all or you will drastically tone down the email.

Most people get way more email in a day than they can handle. For many of us, the struggle to get our inboxes to zero is a constant battle. Email etiquette rules help both the senders as well as the receivers of email — it helps us sort through our email better as we try to minimize the time drain email has on our lives.

There are slight differences between truly personal emails and business emails, but in both cases the most important thing to remember is that once it’s out there, it’s out there forever and you can’t take it back.

Another post you might like is 12 Most Don’t Be a Dumbass Rules for Email.

Do you email wisely with proper etiquette? What other email etiquette rules have I forgotten?

Featured image courtesy of Muffet licensed via Creative Commons.

Susie Newday


Susie is a wife, mother of 5, blogger, RN (ER & Oncology) and a creative jack of many trades. Her passion is helping and connecting with people and she does her best to learn something new each day. Susie lives in Israel after having emigrated there half a life ago.

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Do NOT forward and email that was sent to you to another person WITHOUT the senders permission! If I am writing to you about something and you (for instance) don't have the answer to a question in the email, do NOT reply to my email and cc someone else asking, "Hey Bill, do you know the answer to this? ASK me if it's ok for you to ask Bill. If I agree, then write your OWN email to Bill and don't just forward mine!


Great advice, Susie. I love the "When in Doubt, Leave it Out" because tonality and context can be lost in emails. #5 is a pet peeve of mine. If I take the time to craft an email, I would like some acknowledgement of receipt. We are ALL busy, so show basic courtesy with some response even if it is as simple as "GOT IT".

Still shocking that folks can send emails without spell-checking them. These documents are a reflection of your attention to details and professionalism. Spell-check...manually scan at least one more time for obvious errors, and then send it.



Don't email when you're angry is super important. I "pause" for at least 24 hours when something I read ticks me off. I don't want to take the chance of saying something I shouldn't.

I also think it's important to consider when email works and when it does not. If it's going to take me more than a couple of sentences to communicate a response, I go to the person or call them. I don't want to spend more time writing emails than I do actually interacting with people.

Thanks for the great post. This is an excellent summary of email tips.


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Some great tips here that will help combat email overload.

The real challenge to email overload is to handle email once, send less, receive less and ensure the emails you do send are clear with meaningful subject lines and clear actions.

Email etiquette in business is something which Emailogic.com have been providing for more than 13 years and our results speak for themselves.

Inboxes cut by 40%, irrelevant traffic by 25%. Time saved 31 minutes per day!

Mail tools are useful and can assist in sorting email into folders and calendar items. However we know that email culture within an organisations needs to alter if real long lasting change is to be achieved.


I have a co-worker who types a couple of sentences in the subject line! I was hoping she was doing this just her co-workers but apparently she is doing it to clients as well. Sometimes she will just put the message in the subject line and nothing in the body of the email (except her signature line). This drives me crazy because I think it is so unprofessional but she does  not seem to get that. Thanks for letting me vent!


I need to get my entire staff to read this ~ great tips!


Yep, and #12 is very important. Nasty grams do nothing except make the situation worse.


Fantastic!  Is it RUDE if I email this to a person who regularly sends emails with 10 paragraphs+ ? :)

Great and necessary list.