Basic Business Email Etiquette Rules

Background Paper and Design

Use a clean, non busy background design. It is more professional, less distracting, and easier to read.


  • Use a reasonably sized font no larger than 14 points, not smaller than 10. 
  • Avoid fancy fonts such as “Old English”.  Use Calibri, Verdana, Ariel, Times New Roman 
  • Use one or two fonts.  Using multiple fonts is confusing. 
  • Pick a font and color and stick to it for clarity and ease of reading.

Limit Forwards

  • Avoid Chain letters, distasteful jokes, political views.
  • If there is a clean joke or an inspirational quote that is work related, don’t forward.  
  • Copy and paste content into new email in order to lessen the chances of viruses.

Do Not Expose Email Addresses of Others

  • Other than direct management or groups of an inner office team, do not divulge the email addresses of people who don’t know each other. This is an open door invitation for spammers.
  • Send a copy to yourself and BCC all other recipients so as to hide email addresses. (See next line.)


  • This means blind copy. By BCCing, you are protecting the email information of others. 
  • Place your name in the “To” line 
  • Add multiple other individuals in the BCC line. Recipient will see his/her email address only. 


  • Do piggyback off of an email in order to have a direct line of reference for the topic at hand.
  • Take the initial email and reply to that each time, creating a flow of information as it advances toward resolution. This makes it easier for everyone to follow the progress of the email and subject matter.

*Do not piggyback if the topic is a new one. This creates confusion. Begin  a new email.

No Cutesy Tootsy Email Names

Remember, this is a business. Make it simple and professional.

Titles, Salutations, Content, Sign – Offs, Signature Lines

Use a title or name to begin. The title should be in accordance with the level of respect given for that profession or position. The email should follow the format of open, middle, and close:

1) Title of respect and name (Open)

2) Subject matter at hand (make this clear and concise to avoid confusion) (Middle)

3) Signature sign offs:  “Kind regards”, “Sincerely”, or “Thank you for your attention” (Close)

4) Your name

5) Your title

6) Contact number

7) Fax number

8) Company logo

9) Confidentiality statement

Avoid Caps

Caps are interpreted as  “shouting”  or the “screamer’s language” as I call it. Remember, the reader is not hearing the voice. Confusion and misinterpretation take place without the effects of voice tone, inflection, and volume. All caps are also more difficult to read. Avoid them. Read your email aloud to hear what you’ve written and how it sounds to you. Read the all caps with emphasis. Does it sound harsh to you?

*Italicizing is the better way to punch a word or phrase.


Use your spell check. Misspellings indicate lack of professionalism and may signal a lack of pride in your work.

Use Reply to All Sparingly 

Your email should be directed to the specific person making the inquiry or to the individual who handles this particular area, if possible. If there is a team involved, by all means address the team. Beware of the same email being circulated multiple times, to multiple individuals, when a single response to a single individual might suffice. Other recipients may not be interested in the content. This crowds email boxes and eats up company time .

Large Attachments and Photos

Many servers and email systems have a limitation of 20 megabytes and cannot handle large attachments. Re-size large photos. Use a zip file or FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to send large attachments and numerous photos. There are several free FTP services available (YouSendIt is one).

Add a Legal Confidentiality Statement

It can be placed below your signature line. This makes it illegal for someone to forward one of your emails without your permission.

Use Proper Sentence and Grammar Structure

The lazy man’s way of typing does not work in business. Not capitalizing the word “I” or the beginning of sentences is unprofessional and makes you appear uneducated. Writing cryptic phrases should be avoided in the workplace. You are only as professional as you appear.

Personal Emails

Avoid sending personal emails from a company’s business email account – a big no-no in business unless you are the owner of the company. What you write is a direct reflection on the company. Save the personal emails for lunchtime and use your personal account.

Always Respond

Avoid further emails and confusion by responding efficiently. Not responding lends the impression that you either don’t care, are too busy to address that email, or that it just isn’t important enough. It sets off frustration to the sender and may escalate into a much pricklier situation. A simple reply might be, “give me a few days, please, to get back to you”. This is much better than completely ignoring the sender.

Avoid Exclamation Points!!!

These are perceived as harsh. How do you feel when you read an email with an exclamation point? Unless it is for humorous effect, beware of how this is received.

Check The Email Address

Before sending, take one last glance at the recipient’s email address. Have you mistakenly marked the next name in the alphabet in your contact list? Double check in order to avoid embarrassment with proprietary information.

Subject Lines 

  • Make them relevant. For future search purposes and to alert the recipient as to the content of the email, always write an appropriate subject line. 
  • Hitting reply without changing the subject line may create confusion. 
  • Salesy subject lines will get spammed.  Avoid, “I have a deal for you”, “Last chance”, “Everything on sale”, “Free”. 
  • Change the subject each time you respond. This allows for an easy search when a person needs that one particular email that contained an approval. 

Subject Lines Examples:

Email 1 might read – “Review copy and make corrections.”

Email 2 (the email being sent back in response to this one) might read – “Changed a few lines in red.”

Email 3 might read – “Approved”

Abuse of Contact Us Forms

This area on a website is for information gathering, not for the promotion of your company. This is spamming. Don’t do it. Make a phone call and secure a direct email address (after receiving permission) to forward information about your company.

Avoid Bold Letters

Italicize instead. Bold letters come across as screaming. Avoid them except to perhaps emphasize one word. The best way to emphasize a word or phrase is by italicizing. It is milder, yet lets the reader know that this information is important.

Do Not Open Emails or Attachments from Unknown Senders

This could create a big problem for your company and possibly jeopardize your job.

Anti-Virus Ware, Anti- Spy Ware

Make sure it is up to date in order to safeguard you and your clients.

Quoting Someone’s Writings

If you quote someone, you must give them credit or better yet, supply the link that takes the reader directly to that person’s writings. Otherwise, this is copyright infringement.


These are individuals who send angry, hostile, response provoking emails. Do not respond to this type of behavior. Report it or ignore it.

Sending An Email From Someone Else’s Computer

This is an imposter email, appearing to be from one person but having been written and sent by another. This is wrong and could get you terminated or in trouble legally!

Spam box or Junk box

Check it daily and add approved senders to your safe list so as to avoid misunderstanding, mistrust, and perhaps the failure of a business relationship or missed opportunity.

Do Not Hit Send Immediately

A strong, emotional email, just like the old-fashioned letter, needs thought and calm. Write the email and let it sit for a day or few hours. Think about it. Re-read it.

Are you still ready to hit Send?