Email Etiquette Refresher

July 20, 2020 9:00 am Published by

Get a refresher on email etiquette

A significant portion of our communication happens through email. This is especially true with current work from home set-ups resulting from COVID-19 where communicating properly and effectively through email is essential.

Chances are, you’ve misinterpreted an email or had one of your emails misinterpreted at some point in your life. Email can quickly trigger unnecessary conflict. Here are a few tips and reminders to help you use email as an effective communication tool.

Don’t read energy or emotion into emails.

All you have in email are words, which only account for 7% of communication. The other 93% of communication happens through body language and tone of voice, which cannot be seen or heard through text alone. As we keep this in mind, it will be easier to restrain ourselves from responding back with negative energy or emotion.

Use a greeting in your emails.

Start off with the person’s name or a simple a greeting (e.g. I hope you’re having a nice day). This will help to prevent the person from reading negative emotion or energy into your email and is also both polite and professional.

Use a clear subject line.

A good subject line will help you to stay in communication about an issue as you’re working through it and make it easier to find in an email inbox.

If addressing several topics, use bullet points or numbering.

Don’t write the email like it’s a letter. Don’t use paragraphs that bury a question or a point in the middle of it; otherwise, it will be easy for the reader to miss it. But if it’s a bullet point or a number, there is a much better chance that they’ll get the point.

Limit sending carbon copy (cc) or blind carbon copy (bcc) emails.

Be very careful about how you use the carbon copy (cc) and the blind carbon copy (bcc) features. You can use them for FYIs if you want someone to be kept in the loop. But make it clear as to whether you want people to “reply all” so they don’t do that unless necessary. That way, your people won’t get dozens of unwanted or unneeded emails in their inboxes.

Don’t use bcc to give information to someone that you don’t want others to know you sent him or her. This will often end up getting out and causing conflict and a significant waste of time. It sounds so simple, but so many do it.

Things to avoid: bold, all caps, superlative words, and cussing.

Bold or all caps can easily communicate to someone that you are yelling at him or her. If you do use them, be careful to emphasize that it is only to point out a section or a thought to make it easier for the reader to find.

There are several words that are often misused in email and verbal communication, including need, should, must, never, and always. These are loaded words and lose their true meaning when overused. Save the word need for something you really do need. Should is a shame word, and must can be controlling. Writing that “You always do this,” or “You never do that,” is hyperbole and it’s usually not true.

Also, be careful about using the word but. Often, people will give an affirmation and then say, “But…” That’s called transitional praise and will cause the person to forget how you affirmed him or her and only focus on what comes after the “but.”

Curse words should not be used in work emails. Those four-letter words are unprofessional and they aren’t helping you, they don’t add productivity.

Don’t resolve conflict through email.

If there’s a conflict going on, pick up the phone or speak with that person face to face. When we try to solve conflict through email or texting, we’re only prolonging and often escalating the conflict. And remember that the recipient of the message is only getting 7% of the message, which can also elongate and escalate the conflict.

Email has become an essential part our work lives, and we don’t always give a lot of thought to how we use this valuable communication tool. Work from home requirements and evolving work place arrangements are a good opportunity to review our approach to written communication with coworkers and clients.


This article is adapted from Ford Taylor’s book Relactional Leadership: When Relationships Collide with Transactions: Practical Tools for Every Leaders.

Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people. To learn more, visit

“A loud and consistent champion of Appreciation at Work, Ford provides amazing transformational training for leaders.” – Dr. Paul White

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July 20, 2020 9:00 am

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