Email Etiquette for the Office


I hate email. It’s dying, but not fast enough for me. And since we still need to use it to communicate, I would like to offer some email etiquette guidelines that would make the use of such an antiquated communication tool more, well, bearable.

email-at-work etiquette

Keep it short. Please no emails longer than three short paragraphs. Unless we are paid by the word or by the hour (attorneys!), we don’t have the attention span to read it. I usually scan it and close the email to read later. However, I seldom go back to it. Maybe never. Ok, never.

Use the subject line properly. Create a subject line that makes sense and is relevant to the content of the email. In one day I received five emails from the same person with no subject lines. When that happens, I have not idea how to organize incoming emails and a chances are I will miss one or two. Oh, and please, do not use the subject line as the first line of the email content. That’s annoying.

Have an email signature for all emails. Here’s a minimum: your full name and telephone number. Better yet have two options – one with name, title, company information, and phone, and second one that is simpler for replies, including name and phone number.

Reply with care. When you reply, make sure to have the original email included for reference. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast, much less what I wrote in an email last week.

Forward responsibly. Don’t just forward an email chain and put “see below.” Please, don’t make me figure out your internal emails. If you need to include the full chain, please be kind and  summarize the pertinent content.

What else would you add to this list?

  • The note on a signature… yes please. Even from other people in the company without one. I don’t know their extension offhand.

  • Sharon Henning

    I would make sure that when people are sending out a chain e mail that they put all email addresses in the Bcc. That way people you don’t know can’t access your email address.

  • ElizabethMThompson

    Here’s my suggestion: If an email goes out to a group for a response, respond to the entire group so everyone gets the benefit of your input. This will keep me (I mean the recipient) from having to share your insights with the group.

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  • I agree. While I do love and prefer email, I don’t have time to read it if it is more than 2-3 paragraphs long. I have rules set up for some people that send them to a read-when-I-have-tons-of-time inbox. I would love an AppleScript that actually scans the length then applies the rules, though that may not be possible.

  • Blanton

    Wait – email is dying? What is replacing it? I do a lot of communication via email. Not to change the subject, but I do hope voicemails die soon, I prefer text or email.
    Agreed on the rules of email etiquette. As my workload increases I find my emails shorten. And I ask for meetings instead of reply-all email conversations…

  • Agreed email signatures are a must but do people really have to include the whole privacy act booklet on EVERY email? Use it once, go to the shorter one with replies.

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