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General Business 360 Communication Guide

Effective Email Etiquette

Manage Emails

  • 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 Everyone’s inbox is cluttered with unnecessary messages that could have been replaced by a two-minute conversation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ask for Peer Feedback. Ask a trusted colleague to review important messages.
  • Set an Automatic Send DelayMany email programs, including Outlook and Gmail, allow you to set an automatic delay period (usually 10 seconds) before emails are sent out. This is a good measure to take so that you can double check for forgotten attachments and typos or stop yourself from making a hasty reply. Look for “Undo Send” in the settings of your email client.

  • Turn on Automatic “Out of the Office” Messages when Appropriate. Make use of this email feature to let people know when you won’t be responding to messages.


Follow Email Conventions

  • Use Conversational Language. Avoid pretentious language or old-fashioned business clichés (“per your request,” e.g.).
  • 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.
  • Include a Specific Subject Line. Help readers prioritize the messages that are important to them by adding key details and dates; see the topic Subject Lines in the Guide for examples.
  • 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.
  • Begin with an Appropriate Greeting or Salutation: Use “Hello” or “Hi” and the readers’ first name for informal messages. Use “Dear,” an honorific, and last name or full name with someone you don’t know. see the topic Salutations in the Guide for examples.


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.