The top 15 business email etiquette rules

email etiquette rules

Contents


As people, we tend to communicate over email in ways we wouldn’t in person. It’s easy to slip into the habit of writing emails informally with abbreviations, slang, and poor grammar. But this is where common mistakes can occur: mistakes that can have serious business consequences. 

What is business email etiquette? 

This makes learning email etiquette, especially email signature etiquette, important for any business professional. Business email etiquette is the set of rules and guidelines that govern the proper use of email in a professional setting. 

Why does business email etiquette matter? 

Proper business email etiquette is essential for effective communication in a professional setting and can have a significant impact on your success in the business world. It matters for several reasons: 

  • Clarity: Clear and well-structured emails are more likely to be understood and acted upon. 

  • Reputation: Poorly written or unprofessional emails can damage your reputation and the reputation of your organization. 

  • Relationship building: Following email etiquette helps to build and maintain positive relationships with clients, colleagues, and other business contacts. 

Top 15 business email etiquette rules 

1. Don’t write everything in capitals

Writing in capitals implies you’re shouting and can appear aggressive. It can also lead to your email being marked as spam. If the email is important, consider other ways to convey your message.  

2. BCC recipients or use a mail merge 

This is one of the most common email etiquette mistakes people make. Never place all email addresses in the “To:” field if you're sending to lots of contacts. Otherwise, everyone will see everyone else’s email address, which can be very annoying when viewing a message on a mobile device. Also, most people won’t want their email address shared publicly like this.  

Instead, use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field, making email addresses invisible to all recipients. Alternatively, you can do a mail merge in your email client to send a unique message to everyone on your list.  

3. Never discuss confidential information 

Emails are easy to copy, print, and forward. They’re also surprisingly easy to intercept by malicious outside parties. If the information is highly sensitive, don’t send it over email. As far as email etiquette ideas go, confidentiality should always be paramount. 

Even if the email isn’t forwarded, company management will see if you’re sending inappropriate messages and not using proper email etiquette.  

4. Be careful using abbreviations or emoticons 

You wouldn’t use slang when speaking to another professional in person. Email etiquette dictates that the same is true over email.  

Abbreviations like LOL (Laugh Out Loud) or BRB (Be Right Back) are for instant messages with friends, not business. Some people may also not understand abbreviations and just get confused.  

Emoticons may be a fun way to show emotions, but they can look very unprofessional. It’s better to say what you mean instead.  

5. Don’t request delivery and read receipts 

This is email etiquette 101. Read receipts will annoy recipients before they even read your message. 

Also, they don’t always work as intended. Some recipients may block the receipt function, or their email software might not support them. If you want to know if a recipient has received your email, ask them directly.   

6. Include a clear, direct subject line 

A good subject line might be “Meeting date changed” or “Suggestions for the proposal.” Many recipients will open their email based on the subject line alone. This means choosing one that lets them know you're addressing their business concerns.  

7. Use a professional email address 

Remember you represent your company with every email you send. So, never use a personal email account when sending work-related emails.  

Imagine what a professional client would think if they saw your email address from college. If someone emailed you with the address “party-monster@”, would you want to do business with them?  

8. Use exclamation points sparingly 

Only use exclamation points to convey excitement. Otherwise, you come across as too sensitive, aggressive, or immature.  

Email etiquette mandates that you don’t appear too emotional when messaging. You're sending business emails, not messages to your friends, so it's essential to be as professional as possible. 

9. Be careful when using humor 

Humor can easily get lost in translation over email. Recipients don’t have facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice to guide them.  

Also, remember that just because you find something funny doesn’t mean the recipient will. Leave humor out if there’s a risk you might offend someone. The worst email etiquette blunders are ones that offend people. 

10. Understand that different cultures speak and write differently 

Cultural differences can cause miscommunication, especially in writing. You need to tailor your message and email etiquette to consider the recipient’s cultural background.  

High-context cultures such as Arabic, Chinese or Japanese want to get to know you before they conduct business with you. Business associates will often be more personal in how they write, meaning your email etiquette should be polite and personable.  

However, low-context cultures like German, American, or Scandinavian get to the point quickly with less emphasis on personalization. Therefore, your email etiquette should be professional and informative.  

11. Use proper grammar and punctuation 

Proper sentence structure is important when writing a professional email. Using correct grammar and punctuation is the first place to start.  

Writing a text message or an email in lowercase is fine if it’s to a friend. However, when emailing a colleague or business associate, always start each sentence with a capital letter.  

Title case can be used for the subject line where every word’s first letter is capitalized. This can help make your subject line stand out more.  

12. Remember your tone 

You should use formal language when emailing new contacts as it shows courtesy and respect. Until you build up a friendly relationship, it’s best to avoid writing informally.  

When contacting someone for the first time, address them by their full name. Analyze their reply to gauge whether you can just use their first name in later messages.  

Stay formal when signing off your emails. Read more on this topic with the ultimate email sign offs guide

13. Check the formatting of the email 

Presentation over email is key, and over-formatting equals poor presentation. You want your message to be easy to read. Using multiple font sizes and colors isn’t good email etiquette. Here’s how to choose the best email signature format. Standard font size of 10pt or 12pt is the only size that should be used in emails. Keep font colors simple; black is the easiest color to read on all devices.  

Make sure to use web-safe fonts such as Arial or Calibri as they're easy to read. If you use a custom font, it may not be installed on your recipient’s device. This may cause the text to automatically change to a default like Times New Roman.  

Avoid making your text bold, italicized, or underlined unless 100% necessary. It can appear rude or pushy. Instead, use words to emphasize your point.  

14. Proofread everything you send 

Double-check everything before you hit send on every email. Mistakes like typos tend to get noticed. Even if you’re in a rush, it takes less time to proofread compared to apologizing for a mistake you’ve made.  

This goes for mobile emails too. Having a signature saying “Sorry for any typos” is poor email etiquette and doesn’t cut it in today’s business world. It’s also wise to add the email address you’re sending to last, so you don’t accidentally send your message before you’re ready.  

15. Include a professional email signature 

The recipient will want to know who you are. So, give them your contact details through a professional email signature. Email signature etiquette says that the bare minimum should be your full name, job title, company name, phone number, and email address. This applies to both desktop and mobile emails. This improves your email etiquette, as you provide recipients with an easy way to contact you.  

You can use email signatures to amplify your marketing campaigns with elements like promotional banners. There are also ways to use social media in your email signatures  if appropriate. However, remember that you must always remain professional and conform to the email etiquette ideas and tips highlighted in this article.  


And Exclaimer offers the perfect platform for you to ensure everyone in your company has a professional email signature on every message they send. Learn more

Frequently asked questions about email etiquette

What is bad email etiquette?

Here are some examples of bad email etiquette: 

  1. Not responding promptly: Ignoring emails or taking an excessively long time to respond. 

  2. Not addressing the recipient by name: Failing to address the recipient by their name or using the wrong name. 

  3. Sending large attachments: Sending large attachments without warning or without verifying if the recipient can receive them. 

  4. Replying all unnecessarily: Replying to all emails when it's not necessary or relevant to all recipients. 

  5. Not using BCC when appropriate: Exposing recipients' email addresses by not using the BCC field when emailing a large group. 

  6. Not respecting the recipient's time: Sending emails that are not relevant to the recipient or including them in long email chains unnecessarily. 

  7. Using email for inappropriate topics: Using email for discussions or topics that are better suited for face-to-face conversations or phone calls. 

  8. Sending irrelevant forwards or chain emails: Sending irrelevant forwards, chain emails, or spam. 

  9. Not acknowledging receipt: Failing to acknowledge receipt of an important email, especially if a response is required. 

Related articles

Image Placeholder
Guides

10 post-purchase email examples & tips: Boosting customer retention and satisfaction

Discover effective post-purchase email strategies to boost customer engagement and satisfaction. Craft compelling messages, with 10 free templates to use.

Read more
Image Placeholder
Guides

From failures to email signature success: Triumph with an email signature platform

Discover how Exclaimer's email signature platform transforms your business emails into brand-building tools. Create professional, consistent email signatures effortlessly and boost your business with every send

Read more
Image Placeholder
Guides

14 common email mistakes to avoid: The complete guide

Discover how to enhance your email communication with Exclaimer's guide on avoiding common email mistakes.

Read more
Image Placeholder
Guides

10 post-purchase email examples & tips: Boosting customer retention and satisfaction

Discover effective post-purchase email strategies to boost customer engagement and satisfaction. Craft compelling messages, with 10 free templates to use.

Read more
Image Placeholder
Guides

From failures to email signature success: Triumph with an email signature platform

Discover how Exclaimer's email signature platform transforms your business emails into brand-building tools. Create professional, consistent email signatures effortlessly and boost your business with every send

Read more
Image Placeholder
Guides

14 common email mistakes to avoid: The complete guide

Discover how to enhance your email communication with Exclaimer's guide on avoiding common email mistakes.

Read more

Subscribe to learn more about email signature marketing