Email Etiquette at Work

Email is a form of business communication significantly different than any other form invented before. It’s not as fast as phone communication but it’s not as laborious as fax, it has a unique combination of communication features.

For this reason, we sometimes find it hard to discover and use the right email etiquette at work. I believe this is a highly relevant people skills topic particularly because we are becoming more reliant on email in the workplace. Thus, good email etiquette at work significantly improves our overall results.

With this is mind, here are 9 essential rules of email etiquette at work which I encourage you to put into practice.

1. Reply in a timely manner. My basic rule about email reply speed is the following: reply to any email in less than 48 hours and ideally, in less than 24 hours (weekends do not count). This kind of email expediency will be greatly appreciated by colleagues, clients and collaborators.

2. Use an auto-responder. When you’re away from the office for more than 2 days, with the exception of weekends, set an auto-responder to automatically reply to all emails, letting people know you are away and you have limited or no access to email (if this is the case). Also, leave them your phone number or the email of another colleague for emergencies.

3. Only add people in Cc if necessary. Just because someone added another person in the Cc field when sending you an email doesn’t mean you have to keep including that person in the discussion. Before putting a person’s email in Cc, ask yourself if that person really needs to get that email.

4. Do not ask confirmations for every email. There is this function which requests an email receiver to send a receipt that confirms they’ve read the email. Do use it with very important email you send, to make sure it has been read, but do not use it with all your email. It’s pointless and it will quickly annoy people.

5. Do not spam people. I do not want to receive on my work email address jokes, requests for donations, motivational stories, satirical Power Points or other such crap. Unless I want to avoid working, such emails are only clogging my Inbox. I don’t care about those things at work! Keep them for my private email address.

6. Put your name in the signature. This may seem obvious. However, you would be surprised how many emails I receive from addresses type “office@…” and no one has signed the email. So initially, I have no idea who I’m talking with and I get the feeling I’m talking with a machine rather than a real person.

7. Spell check your email. You don’t have to be a perfectionist about this; after all it’s just an email, not a resume. However, after you write an email, do read it once head to bottom before clicking the Send Button.

8. Keep it focused on business. Work emails are not for office gossip or sharing your entire life story with others. It’s OK to communicate in a human, authentic way using email at work, it’s not OK to fill an email with useless details which make the relevant business information hard to find.

9. End emails in a friendly way. Do use ending formulas such as “Best wishes” or “Have a great day”. Even if you use the same formula with everyone and it’s more of a reflex, it will still help. People like it when an email ends in a warm and positive way, wishing them things like the ones above.

In my view, email etiquette at work is definitely an evolving topic. As technology evolves, so does email and so do the rules of email etiquette at work. It is up to you to always use your head, keep your people skills in general sharp and seek to make the best use of email communication in the workplace.

Image courtesy of iklash


  1. Great tips. Very necessary information.

    One thing I’d like to add to point #6 (put your name in the signature):

    Also, include your contact information. If you use Outlook, make sure you have your signature setup to display on both replies and forwards, just as it does for new compositions.

    The reason for this is because often use email as a way to find contact information quickly. Having your sig on each email you send helps the seeker, find it quicker.

    Great stuff!

    • Good idea Jk. I sometimes recommend people to add an alternative contact method in the signature, such as their phone number. Give others extra means of getting in touch.

  2. I do have to agree with JK and say that you have pointed out a few great tips that must be taken into consideration when writing a business email.

    Furthermor, I believe it would also be suitable to personalize your email and make it more friendly than the business itself. Also, let´s not forget that (any type of) relationships are built beyond spoken/written words.

    • Alin, I’m definitely a fan of friendly, personalized email. I don’t like to feel that I’m talking to a robot. I also think it’s best if we manage to be friendly while sticking to the point in our email communication.

  3. Awesome advice. I would love to see a great example of email etiquette. Maybe one of your emails. Just a thought.

    • I didn’t think about that. I’ll consider it for future posts. You can always write me an email and get my reply as an example of how I do email communication.

      Jesus, is that your real name? 🙂

  4. It is amazing how many people have no idea, so these tips are great.
    Poor spelling in an e-mail really winds me up, there is just no need for it, so that would be my number one!

    • Yessss, amazing Kate. I usually think of these tips as common sense, yet I often see them ignored. The 34 Facebook likes so far confirm that people find value in them. 😉

  5. I’ve got built-in links to my Twitter, Facebook fan page and my website in each signature coming from my business account; below that, I have a short list of links to things that may encourage more business – like so:

    Angie’s Deal of the Week (link) * Why Your Business Needs… (link) etc.

  6. That looks like a healthy set of good, basic guidelines.

  7. These are simple points, yet so frequently overlooked. Great post!

    Responding to a message in a timely fashion is key. Even just letting the other person know you received the message and will respond back in detail soon is helpful, to ensure that the sender doesn’t think you are ignoring them.

  8. Eduard: Great post. It actually is one of the first ones I have read on email etiquette and I think those tips are all great advice. I particularly appreciated the one about who you carbon copy. Email really is another form of communication and I think it is important to follow etiquette rules because you don’t want to be misunderstood or do things that people may take the wrong way. Thanks for all the great advice.

    • Hi Sibyl!

      I had some experiences getting Cc-ed in really long discussions which for me had long served their purpose. Sometimes, people forget to exclude other people from an email discussion at the right moment.

  9. Yeah Jesus is my real name. I get a ton of funny comments about it.

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