10 Rules of Proper Email Etiquette

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Have you ever received an email that left you wondering about the person who sent it? Or worse, have you ever sent an email that you later regretted? Being on the receiving end of a bad email can leave you shaking your head and trying to figure out what on earth the other person was thinking. Being the one who sent it can ruin an otherwise great day, and it can have adverse repercussions later.

The speed of zipping off an email has made it the preferred method of communication. Whether you send a personal or business email, following proper etiquette is essential to prevent miscommunication or hard feelings.

Follow the Golden Rule by treating the recipient as you would want to be treated. Before you click “send” on any email take a minute and give it an extra read-through. Effective use of email can put you in a positive light with your supervisor and may even give you an edge when it's time for a promotion.

  • 01 of 10

    Don't Assume Privacy

    Spam - Urgent Business Proposal
    Spam - Urgent Business Proposal Just One Film/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Keep in mind that your company and personal email may not be private. Your company has the right to read anything sent from the office, so never write and send personal or highly sensitive information from work. Personal email from home may be forwarded, so don’t put anything in writing that could cause a problem if it reaches the wrong person.

  • 02 of 10

    Avoid Offensive Comments

    Serious businessman working at laptop in office
    Always check to make sure there are no offensive comments. Hero Images / Getty Images

    Avoid offensive comments in your email. This includes racist, sexist, or negative remarks about another person or company. If you receive an offensive email, don’t reply or forward it to anyone. Never use email to say anything that can be misconstrued or misinterpreted if it gets back to your boss.

  • 03 of 10

    Don't Shout

    Typing email
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    Remember that when you type in all caps, your email comes across as shouting. Some people think it makes their message easier to read, but that isn’t the case. Use a font that is easy on the eyes when read in standard case letters.

  • 04 of 10

    Edit Your Messages

    Focused college student studying at computer
    Edit your email before sending. Hero Images / Getty Images

    Edit your emails before you send them. Use spellchecker and go over all business emails to make sure you have proper grammar. You always want to present yourself as a professional in all correspondence. Check personal email after you finish writing it to make sure it gets your intended point across. Dropping or adding a single word can change the meaning of a sentence.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Reply With Caution

    How should I reply to that?
    Check all of the fields before you reply to email. kupicoo / Getty Images

    Know the proper way to reply to the emails you receive. Pay close attention to the sender and the others in the “to” and “cc” fields. Respond as quickly as possible rather than let your “saved” folder become too cluttered.

    Avoid the urge to hit “reply all” before looking to see who is listed in the header. Your response may confuse others on the list, or you might wind up sending unnecessary information to people you don’t know. The only time you should click “reply all” is if you are sure everyone needs the information you are sending.

  • 06 of 10

    Know Your Email Tools

    Businessman using computer at desk in office
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    Know the tools and types of email. This includes “to,” “cc,” “bcc,” and subject lines. The main recipient should be in the “to” field. When you need to copy someone, you would normally add that person to the “cc” or carbon copy field. If someone needs to be copied without the others on the list receiving his or her email, use “bcc” or blind carbon copy. Only copy people who need to know the information you are sending.

    Never forward chain emails to anyone. These can be cumbersome and clog people’s email boxes to the point of annoyance. You don’t want to become the person who forwards messages that may or may not be true.

    You should always fill in the subject line for a business-related email, and it is preferred in a personal email. Keep the subject line as short as possible and only have one topic per mailing.

  • 07 of 10

    Keep It Brief

    Young woman relaxing at home with tablet
    Don't write long, rambling emails. Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

    Most people prefer brief emails rather than long, wordy messages. If possible, state your point in a couple of sentences. For a longer message, start with an introductory paragraph letting people know the basics. If you have more than one topic, split your message into more than one mailing, with one topic per email.

  • 08 of 10

    Watch Your Tone

    Woman receiving bad news on smartphone
    Check your tone before sending an email. PhotoAlto/Eric Audras / Getty Images

    Maintain a positive tone in your email communications. Remember that snarky remarks may come across as mean-spirited rather than funny.

    Save the sarcastic humor for voice communications so others can hear the tone of your voice. This also includes anger. You should always avoid sending angry emails, or you may risk offending someone you work with or care about.

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  • 09 of 10

    Use Priority Flags With Discretion

    Business people on tarmac with corporate jet
    Know how to use priority flags for important emails. Hero Images / Getty Images

    If you have a high priority flag, only use it when necessary. Using it too much will eventually have the opposite effect you want and send your emails to the bottom of the priority list for the recipients.

  • 10 of 10

    Sign Your Name

    Woman at home using her laptop
    Include contact information in your email signature. Marc Romanelli / Getty Images

    Don’t forget to sign your emails. The recipients may get annoyed if they have to scroll up to figure out who sent them the message. If you expect a response by phone, be sure to include the number, even if you know the person has it on file. The purpose of email is to save time, and having to stop what he or she is doing will slow things down. If you have a signature line, keep it updated with the proper email address and phone numbers.