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GEN BUS 360: Workplace Writing and Communication (Spring 2022)

Effective Email Etiquette


Manage Emails

  • Batch Email Responses. It can be difficult to get work done when you are interrupted by incoming messages. Schedule time to respond to emails, such as first thing in the morning, midafternoon, and before the end of the day. Protect the rest of your time to focus on more important work.

  • Pick up the Phone or Walk Down the Hall. Everyone’s inbox is cluttered with unnecessary messages that could have been replaced by a two-minute conversation.

  • Set up Automatic “Out of the Office” Messages. Make use of the feature of most email programs to let people know when you won’t be responding to messages.


Follow Email Conventions

  • Plan and Revise Carefully. Follow a process for important emails that includes planning, rereading, revising, and editing. Early in your career, when you are establishing your credibility, every document with your name on it matters.

  • Include all parts. Include detailed subjects and polite salutations and complimentary closes.

  • Use Both Signatures and Signature Blocks. Always sign your name at the bottom of the email, and have your name, title, organization, address, and phone number set up in your signature block.

  • Attach Documents Before Writing the Cover Message. It’s easy to complete a message and hit send automatically, without the attachment. Attaching the document(s) first prevents this common error. Alternately, you can create a habit of attaching documents when you mention the attachment in the message.

  • Use Conversational Language. Avoid pretentious language or old-fashioned business clichés (“per your request,” e.g.).


Demonstrate Professionalism

  • Be Paranoid. Most workplace email is public—your employer owns your email and can often access it at any time. It is also easily forwarded to an unintended audience. Thus, never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t say in front of your boss, clients, peers, or subordinates.
  • Be Professional. Avoid humor, sarcasm, texting jargon, and casual abbreviations or emoticons. Never forward spam, chain emails, or jokes from your work email to colleagues.

  • BCC Appropriately. Use the bcc function to protect privacy when emailing groups. Avoid using the bcc line to secretly involve a third person in an exchange.

  • Take Time to Cool Down. Never send emails in an emotional state. If you have to write an email on a touchy subject, sleep on it, and get a trusted friend or colleague to review it for tone.

  • Explain Delayed Replies. If an important email requires a detailed response that you don’t yet have time for, send a courteous and brief message letting your correspondent know when you will send the message. Be aware that in some workplaces email responses are expected within minutes, while in others 24-48 hours is acceptable.

Content Credit

Content on this page was created by the Business Communication team at the Wisconsin School of Business.