Basic Email Etiquette Techniques Every Professional Should Know


The trend of exchanging messages via electronic have been alarming in this era of technology. The use of email for regular communication is blooming with the revolution in internet. Availing the situation and context, in this edition of write up, I’m making an attempt of sharing some needed email etiquette that will help people specifically the youngsters and professionals in making their emails (communication) more effective and vivid.

Email etiquette basically denotes the general codes of actions that one should follow in during the drafting of email message. In this context drafting email messages refers to both composing new emails and also making a reply to the received mail. Since this does not involve face to face communication; likelihoods for some miscommunication or ignorance of some basic principle could be prevalent, therefore, it is must to notice and follow certain techniques or common guidelines to avoid such scenario.

1. Check your email address

Let’s check our email addresses. PunkRokcker_1990, sweetfucchi@, handsomeboyhere@, etc. are some email addresses specially used by the youngster. In during the personal use, it might not affect much but when it comes to professionalism, this is not considered professional, in fact, if someone with name Ram makes email id with PunkRocker@ then comes the questions of identification of the individual. The impression we give through our email address is indeed vital. So, let’s take some time and check our email address again.

2. Composing Email

Composing new email is very crucial where the first thing we need to think of is the type of email we are writing; i.e. either it is an invitation, an application, an information dissemination or for other general purpose. The sender should try in making their mails concise and coherent. The sender should articulate the needed information with no unnecessary deviations and elongations. The mail should be reader friendly in terms of size and also the language we use. Acronyms are not encouraged only in some specific cases. Re-read email before you send, sometime you misspell the names, misguide the gender so its important proof read it before hitting the send button.

3. Writing significant / relevant subject

Imagine you receive email with following subject [blank] [no subject]. Will such subject interests you in opening your email or even if you open email you get confused with the priority and intensity of the matter?  So, the case is no different when you are the sender. Professionals do not take such email seriously. Also writing a meaningful subject is vital like [Regarding Fundraising] [Follow up on ABC Project] [Thank you for wonderful reception] , so one should write such subject which is meaningful.

4. Addressing & Email Signature

Proper addressing to the receiver is must (e.g. Dear Sir, Respected Sir). Try to address personally to the respective person or position in your invitation or personalize your audience. It reflects the respect and honor you make to the receiver. Meanwhile, appropriate use of words and notes to close the email is equally meaningful like yours sincerely, with best regards, etc.). Similarly, do not forget in adding your signature inclusive of your details along with the email. The personal details under your email should be brief and relevant, adding to many details will decrease the setting of your email.

5. TO, CC and BCC

These field are very important and sensitive.

To – keep those people in TO field who is to receive the email or recipient you are directly addressing.

CC (Carbon Copy) – keep those persons in CC field anyone else concerned who is supposed to know about the message/ information of email. The receiver can see who all have received the email. Persons in CC people do not reply instantly since they are only copied and the basic idea is to inform them and keep them updated.

BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) – This means email address kept in BCC are not seen by the recipients in TO and CC. However, BCC person can see who are in email loop without them being aware of his presence in email. BCC is somewhat considered as wrong and portrays kind of mistrust in team. However, when the recipients list is long and they do not know each other; everyone is kept in BCC and they are not visible to each other.

REMEMBER: Recipient’s name and email address you enter into the “to” and “cc” fields will be visible to each other while recipients kept in “bcc” are hidden.

6. Reply, Reply all and Forward

You should be very selective in this. Analyze if it makes sense to reply all or not because replying all is very unnecessary most of the times. Let’s imagine a scenario; with many recipients in an email and the purpose of email is to inform the audience, then it doesn’t make sense to reply all promptly and let other audience (non-sender) know you received or thanked email. You should only ‘reply’ to the sender and let them know you received or noted the message. Even if the information is missing, you can kindly ‘reply’ and asked sender to verify, because you are receiver not the sender.

While forwarding messages, check the chain of previous messages and decide if its needed or not to forward the complete conversations. Sometime, forwarding and mixing the different departments creates dissemination of irrelevant message and annoys the receiver.

  • Respond your email, if possible promptly. Do not respond with unnecessary information if you lack knowledge, buy time with the sender if you need time with response like ‘email received, will get back to you once I have the information’.
  • Language you use in the email should be kind with a proper tone being used. Straight messages provide wrong gesture.
  • Be aware of the Sentence Case you use. Don’t write all in capitals OR all in lowercase – both are not well regarded. CAPITAL LETTERS are often toned as LOUD
  • Remember, once you press the ‘send’ button – you cannot ‘un-send’ an email
  • Check if your attachment is appropriate and be careful while naming the attachments you send.

These could be few among the many etiquette, but all I can say is these are the most needed etiquette.

I still remember the first email I drafted for my first job lacked basic customs which when I see now I find many flaws but writing an email is a habit which develops in terms of your experience and time. All we need to know is to consult with people when we fail to draft than to make a wrong draft which ruins our impressions to those we send it.

Let me know other needed Protocols in comments below. 

About Author:

Saugat Gautam, a co-founder of voices in crisis is a political science graduate. He writes on contemporary political and social issues through various platforms. He has been actively involved and working with I/NGOs, academic institutions and voluntary organizations since last 6 years in different capacities.

Twitter: @saugatsaugat