Proper Email Etiquette and Form

Consider the following guidelines when corresponding formally with email:

  1. Always fill out the subject line.  If you are sending an email for the first time, identify yourself.  People will often delete emails from unknown senders thinking the message contains a virus or is unsolicited spam.
  2. Begin the email with a salutation followed by either a comma (,) or a colon (:).  For example, “Dear Borger:”
  3. Keep your message brief and to the point.
  4. When sending professional email, avoid odd fonts, colors, and images that are distracting and use unnecessary storage space.
  5. When sending an email, do not simply hit “reply” to an old message that has nothing to do with your new message.  Create a new email—even if it means looking up the recipient’s address—or erase the irrelevant information.
  6. Always include a closing and a signature.  Do not assume the recipient will be able to identify you solely according to your email address.
  7. If you are going to send an attachment, include a message stating what the attachment is.  That way the recipient is aware of the attachment and will not delete the message unnecessarily.  Large anonymous attachments are strong candidates for the trash. Attachments should be “RTF’s” (Rich Text Format), Word Documents, or “PDF’s.”


  • Observe how others write e-mail where you work
  • Provide an informative, specific subject line
  • Keep your messages brief
    • Use a simple structure: state your topic, summarize background information, and present your main point and supporting material.
    • Exclude information not directly related to your main point.
    • Stick to one topic.
    • When quoting from previous e-mails, include only the relevant lines.
  • Make your message easy to read on screen
    • Write short paragraphs.
    • Put blank lines between paragraphs.
    • Use headings.
    • Use lists.
  • Protect privacy with e-mail
    • Be careful about mixing personal and work-related topics.
    • Let strong feelings settle down before sending your e-mail.
    • Never include anything you would not want forwarded to other readers.
    • Never write something about a person you would say directly to the person.
    • Never include confidential information.

*From Paul V. Anderson’s Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach


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