7 Email Etiquette Rules That Will Keep Your Head From Exploding


Emails are both the joy and bane of my existence. I love that they’re generally brief, they let me know what’s going on and they’re a nice break when the coffee doldrums kick in. At the same time, they’re essentially digital spam, clogging up my inbox with long threads, stories of credit cards scams and “reply all” mistakes.

There’s no way of cutting out the bad parts, but here are some etiquette rules that can help any of us not make this digital annoyance worse.

1. Respect the Reply

Sometimes a reply all is necessary sometimes it isn’t. Use your judgment. Yes, the whole team might need to know if you’re not in, but do they need to hear “thank you,” or, “ I met Jane and she was nice.” No. THEY DON’T. That’s not quite email spam, but that’s exactly how actual valuable email messages in threads get lost. LOST. Plus, overshare much? C’mon.


Using all CAPS LOCKS IN AN EMAIL CAN BE SEEN AS MEAN. Avoid it. Better yet, just don’t do it.

3. REPLY You, Reply WHO?

An addendum to the reply all is the reply who. This is when you consciously or thoughtlessly choose to add extra people to an email thread. So why is that a bad idea? Let me break it down. Mark emails Jane, John and Joan about changes at work. Jane is unhappy and replies directly to Mark with her issues. Many are valid, so Mark replies to Jane AND ADDS IN John and Joan. Now Jane has been “outed” as the email complainer. Not cool. If someone doesn’t belong on an email chain, don’t add them. Or, make it clear to the person you’re responding to that this needs to be a one-on-one discussion.

4. The did you get my email, email?

The answer to this is never going to make you happy. It will be a yes, and I ignored it. Or a yes, and I shelved it for now. Or a yes, and I deleted it because it was under the 20 other ones you sent me. Seriously, if someone wants to get back to you, they will. There are many reasons they are not at the moment. Unless it’s a life-and-death situation, respect that.

5. Attachment Overload

You have great and amazing things to email, but do they need to all be in one email? And in such large file formats? Consider what you’re sending and how you’re sending it. Just make life easier for all.

6. NOT Using email

Everyone has a different system of communicating. But here’s the truth, if I’ve asked for something sent to me by email, I want it sent to me by email. That pretty much goes for most humans who make that request. In other words, follow what someone tells you to do when it comes to connecting. Otherwise, you’re basically saying you aren’t listening.

7. Email Labeling- Urgent or Not

Some people like to send all their emails in the morning. Others sporadically hit send throughout the day. Some people work late and send them at 2.a.m. That’s all fine (ish), unless you happen to be an “On Call” person whose job it is to work nights/weekends and have to act on them immediately, often waking up a whole bunch of people at the same time.

I’m not saying don’t send that email at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, but if it’s not urgent, mark that in the header. Seriously, you’ll save everyone a lot of grief.

OK, rant over. Please share your own email etiquette tips and pet peeves below.

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