Email Tips: Top 10 Strategies for Writing Effective Email

JerzWritingE-text > Email Tips

Follow these email etiquette tips in order to write more effective email.

The improvised back-and-forth pattern we are comfortable with in social media conversations differs greatly from the pre-planned, more self-contained messages most professionals expect in the workplace.

If you are planning an outing with friends, you expect multiple rapid exchanges asking for clarification and providing corrections on the fly. Since you are usually texting somebody you already know well, about a shared interest, you don’t need to provide much context.

But most professionals do not want to engage in a leisurely back-and-forth in order to get their work done. They want to clear this item from their inbox, perhaps by passing it to an assistant or kicking it upstream, without having to ask the sender “I dunno, what do you think?” or “What did you mean by that emoji?”

Originally written by Jessica Bauer in 2000; expanded and maintained by Dennis G. JerzWriting Effective Email: Top 10 Tips

  1. Write a meaningful subject line.
  2. Keep the message focused.
  3. Avoid attachments.
  4. Identify yourself clearly.
  5. Be kind. Don’t flame.
  6. Proofread.
  7. Don’t assume privacy.
  8. Distinguish between formal and informal situations.
  9. Respond Promptly.
  10. Show Respect and Restraint.

1. Write a meaningful subject line.

Before you hit “send,” take a moment to write a subject line that accurately describes the content, giving your reader a concrete reason to open your message. A vague or blank subject line is a missed opportunity to inform or persuade your reader.

Remember — your message is not the only one in your recipient’s mailbox. A clear subject line will help a busy professional to decide that your email is worthwhile.

Bad ExampleSubject: [Blank]
A blank subject line suggests that your name in the “From” line is all your recipient should need in order to make you message a top priority. That could come across as arrogant, or at the very least, thoughtless. A well-chosen subject line is an important opportunity to inform and persuade your reader.
Bad Example Subject: “Important! Read Immediately!!
Rather than brashly announcing that the secret contents of your mystery message are inexplicably important…
Good ExampleSubject: “All Cars in the Lower Lot Will Be Towed in 1 Hour.”
…write a functional subject line that actually conveys the important idea.
Bad ExampleSubject: “Quick question.
If the question is quick, why not just ask it in the subject line? This subject line is hardly useful.
Iffy Example Subject: “Follow-up about Friday
Fractionally better — provided that the recipient remembers why a follow-up was necessary.
Iffy Example Subject: “That file you requested.
Many email users get scads of virus-laden spam with vague titles like this. The more specific you are, the more likely your recipient’s spam-blocker will let your message through.
Good Example Subject: “10 confirmed for Friday… will we need a larger room?
Upon reading this revised, informative subject line, the recipient immediately starts thinking about the size of the room, not about whether it will be worth it to open the email.

2. Keep the message focused.

Why are you writing? Are you responding to a request? Apologizing for an error on your part? Asking for the recipient to take some action for you?

  • Purpose: Any textbook on business and professional writing will include examples of complaint and adjustment letters, proposal letters, progress reports, application letters, and so forth.
  • Directness: You probably don’t need to open with “Dear Ms. Jones,” engage in personal chit-chat, and close with “Yours Truly.” (If you really want to be that formal, send a letter on paper instead.)
  • Organization: Readers will often get partway through a complex message, hit “reply” as soon as they have something to contribute, and forget to read the rest. That’s human nature.
    • Number your points in more complex message. (Start with a clear statement of how many parts there are to your message.)
    • Split unrelated points into separate, purposeful emails.
      • If you send all your employees a message that only relates to some of them, a lot of people will waste time reading the whole thing, in order to determine whether any part of it applies to them.
      • Other people will give up as soon as they find any detail that does not apply to them. (Again, this is human nature.)
  • Politeness: Please and thank-you are still important, but wordiness wastes your reader’s time (which is rude).
    Bad ExampleIndirect and wasteful: “Dearest Arnold: I would be very much obliged if, at your earliest convenience, you could send me the current password for the website. I look forward to your response. Have a nice day! Yours Truly, Philomena.”
    Iffy Example Blunt to the point of rudeness: “Need the password for the website.”
    If you get a message like this, you might assume the sender trusts you and really needs your help; however, if you send a message like this, you might  appear needy and panicky. Is that how you want to come across? Think about it.
    Good Example Urgent, yet polite: “Site is down, but I can’t troubleshoot without the new password. Do you know it?”

To help your reader focus on your message: keep your text readable.

  • Proofread, especially when your message asks your recipient to do work for you. All-caps comes across as shouting, and no-caps makes you look like a lazy teenager. Regardless of your intention, people will respond accordingly.
    • If you are in middle school, a gushing statement “thx 4 ur help 2day ur gr8!″ may make a busy professional smile — or shudder.
    • Often, the sweetness of the gesture won’t be enough. u want ur prof r ur boss 2 think u cant spl? LOL ;-)
  • Write short paragraphs, separated by blank lines. Most people find unbroken blocks of text boring, or even intimidating. Take the time to format your message for the ease of your reader.
  • Avoid fancy typefaces. Don’t depend upon bold font or large size to add nuances. Your recipient’s email reader may not have all the features that yours does. In a pinch, use asterisks to show *emphasis*.

3. Avoid attachments.

Rather than forcing you reader to download an attachment and open it in a separate program, you will probably get faster results if you just copy-paste the most important part of the document into the body of your message.

Bad ExampleTo: All 1000 Employees
From: Eager Edgar
Subject: A helpful book everyone should read
Hello, everyone. I’ve attached a PDF that I think you’ll all find very useful. This is the third time I sent it the file — the version I sent yesterday had a typo on page 207, so I’ve sent the whole thing again. Since some of you noted that the large file size makes it a bit awkward, I’ve also attached each chapter as a separate document. Let me know what you think!Attachments:

  • Big Honking File.pdf (356MB)
  • BHF Cover.pdf (25MB)
  • BHF Chapter 1.pdf (35MB)
  • [… ]
Okay, raise your hands… how many of us would delete the above message immediately, without looking at *any* of those attachments?
Good ExampleTo: Bessie Professional
From: Morris Ponsybil
Subject: Email tips — a subject for an office workshop?
Bessie, I came across some tips on streamlining professional communications. Has anyone volunteered to present at the office workshop next month? Let me know if you’d like me to run a little seminar (20 minutes?) on using email effectively. Below, I’ll paste the table of contents. I’ll send you the whole thing as a PDF if you want it.Table of Contents

  1. Write a meaningful subject line.
  2. Keep the message focused and readable.
  3. Avoid attachments.
  4. […]

Recognize that attachments

  • consume bandwidth (do you want your recipient to ignore your request so as to avoid paying for a mobile download?)
  • can carry viruses
  • don’t always translate correctly for people who read their email on portable devices.
  • may require your recipient to have certain software installed (such as Microsoft Publisher or Apple’s Pages)

4. Identify yourself clearly.

If you telephoned someone outside your closest circle, someone who probably wouldn’t recognize your voice, you would probably say something like “Hello, Ms. Wordsworth, this is Sally Griffin.” A formal “Dear Ms. Wordsworth” salutation is not necessary for routine workplace communication.

When we send text messages to our friends, we expect a lot of back-and-forth. But professionals who use email don’t enjoy getting a cryptic message from an email address they don’t recognize.

While a routine email does not require a formal salutation such as “Dear Ms. Wordsworth,” ask yourself whether the person you are writing knows you well enough to recognize your email address.

Bad ExampleTo: Professor Blinderson
Subject: [Blank]Yo goin 2 miss class whats the homework
Professor Blinderson will probably reply, “Please let me know your name and which class you’re in, so that I can respond meaningfully. I don’t recognize the address”
Good Example To: Professor Blinderson
Subject: EL227 Absence, Oct 10Hello, Prof. Blinderson. This is Morris Ponsybil, from EL227 section 2.This morning, I just found out that the curling team has advanced to the playoffs, so I’m going to be out of town on the 10th.According to the syllabus, it looks like I will miss a paper workshop and the discussion of Chapter 10. May I email you my Chapter 10 discussion questions before I leave town? And could I come to your office hour at 2pm on the 12th, in order to discuss the paper? I’ve asked Cheryl Jones to take notes for me.Thank you very much. I’ll see you in class tomorrow.
If you are asking the other person to do you a favor, providing the right information will give him or her a good reason to decide in your favor. In this case, Morris Ponsybil shows his professor he cares enough about the class to propose a solution to the problem his absence will cause.

When contacting someone cold, be polite and brief. If you are asking for a stranger to do something for you for free, be prepared to hear nothing in response.

Even if you already have a connection with the person you are contacting, a little context is helpful. Every fall, I get emails from “” or “” who ask a question about “class” and don’t sign their real names.

If you are following up on a face-to-face contact, you might appear too timid if you assume your recipient doesn’t remember you; but you can drop casual hints to jog their memory: “I enjoyed talking with you about usability testing in the elevator the other day.”

While formal phrases such as “Dear Professor Sneedlewood” and “Sincerely Yours,” are unnecessary in email, when contacting someone outside your own organization, you should write a signature line that includes your full name and at least a link to a blog or online profile page (something that does not require your recipient to log in first).

5. Be kind. Don’t flame.

Think before you click “Send.”

If you find yourself writing in anger, save a draft, go get a cup of coffee, and imagine that tomorrow morning someone has taped your email outside your door. Would your associates and friends be shocked by your language or attitude?

Or would they be impressed by how you kept your cool, how you ignored the bait when your correspondent stooped to personal attacks, and how you carefully explained your position (or admitted your error, or asked for a reconsideration, etc.)>

Will you have to work with this person for several months? Do you want a copy of your bitter screed to surface years from now, when you want a letter of recommendation?

Bad Example@!$% &*@!! &(*!
Go ahead… write it, revise it, liven it up with traditional Lebanese curses, print it out, throw darts on it, and scribble on it with crayon. Do whatever you need in order to get it out of your system. Just don’t hit “Send” while you’re still angry.
Good Example From: Clair Haddad
To: Ann O. Ying
Subject: Re: Ongoing Problems with ProjectI’m not sure how to respond, since last week you told Sue that you didn’t need any extra training, so I cancelled Wednesday’s workshop. I can CC Sue in on this thread if you like, since she’s the one who will have to approve the budget if we reschedule it. Meanwhile, I can loan you my copies of the manual, or we can look into shifting the work to someone else. Let me know what you’d like me to do next.—Original Message –
From: Ann O. Ying
I tried all morning to get in touch with you. Couldn’t you find a few minutes in between meetings to check your messages? I’m having a rough time on this project, and I’m sorry if this is last-minute, but I’ve never done this before and I think the least you could do is take some time to explain it again.
If your recipient has just lambasted you with an angry message, rather than reply with a point-by-point rebuttal, you can always respond with a brief note like this, which

  1. casually invokes the name of someone the angry correspondent is likely to respect (in order to diffuse any personal antagonism that may otherwise have developed) and
  2. refocuses the conversation on solutions (in this conversation, Ann has already dug herself into a hole, and Clair has nothing to gain by joining her there)

6. Proofread.

If you are asking someone else to do work for you, take the time to make your message look professional.

While your spell checker won’t catch every mistake, at the very least it will catch a few typos. If you are sending a message that will be read by someone higher up on the chain of command (a superior or professor, for instance), or if you’re about to mass-mail dozens or thousands of people, take an extra minute or two before you hit “send”. Show a draft to a close associate, in order to see whether it actually makes sense.

7. Don’t assume privacy.

A good motto: praise in public, and criticize in private. Don’t send anything over email that you wouldn’t want posted — with your name attached — in the break room.

Email is not secure. Just as random pedestrians could reach into a physical mailbox and intercept envelopes, a curious hacker, a malicious criminal, and your IT department can probably read any and all email messages in your work account.

If you stretch the truth in an email (downplaying a problem, leaving out an important detail, etc.), you’re creating a written record that your recipient can (and will) use to determine whether

  • you are uninformed about the truth
  • you are informed but deliberately misrepresenting the truth
  • your confused and conflicting emails mean you aren’t a reliable source for determining the truth

8. Distinguish between formal and informal situations.

When you are writing to a friend or a close colleague, it is OK to use “smilies” :-) , abbreviations (IIRC for “if I recall correctly”, LOL for “laughing out loud,” etc.) and nonstandard punctuation and spelling (like that found in instant messaging or chat rooms).

These linguistic shortcuts are generally signs of friendly intimacy, like sharing cold pizza with a family friend. If you tried to share that same cold pizza with a first date, or a visiting dignitary, you would give off the impression that you did not really care about the meeting. By the same token, don’t use informal language when your reader expects a more formal approach.

Always know the situation, and write accordingly.

9. Respond Promptly.

If you want to appear professional and courteous, make yourself available to your online correspondents. Even if your reply is, “Sorry, I’m too busy to help you now,” at least your correspondent won’t be waiting in vain for your reply.

10. Show Respect and Restraint

Many a flame war has been started by someone who hit “reply all” instead of “reply.”

While most people know that email is not private, it is good form to ask the sender before forwarding a personal message. If someone emails you a request, it is perfectly acceptable to forward the request to a person who can help — but forwarding a message in order to ridicule the sender is tacky.

Use BCC instead of CC when sending sensitive information to large groups. (For example, a professor sending a bulk message to students who are in danger of failing, or an employer telling unsuccessful applicants that a position is no longer open.) The name of everyone in the CC list goes out with the message, but the names of people on the BCC list (“blind carbon copy”) are hidden. Put your own name in the “To” box if your mail editor doesn’t like the blank space.

Be tolerant of other people’s etiquette blunders. If you think you’ve been insulted, quote the line back to your sender and add a neutral comment such as, “I’m not sure how to interpret this… could you elaborate?”

Sometimes Email is Too Fast!

A colleague once asked me for help, and then almost immediately sent a follow-up informing me she had solved the problem on her own.

But before reading her second message, I replied at length to the first. Once I learned that there was no need for any reply, I worried that my response would seem pompous, so I followed up with a quick apology:

“Should have paid closer attention to my email.”

What I meant to say was “[I] should have looked more carefully at my[list of incoming] email [before replying],” but I could tell from my colleague’s terse reply that she had interpreted it as if I was criticizing her.

If I hadn’t responded so quickly to the first message, I would have saved myself the time I spent writing a long answer to an obsolete question. If I hadn’t responded so quickly to the second message, I might not have alienated the person I had been so eager to help. –DGJ

References & Further Reading

  • Alsop, Stewart. “My Rules of Polite Digital Communication.” Fortune. 142.2 (10 July 2000): p 76. Online. Academic Search Elite. 9 October 2000.
  • Cronin, Jennifer. “Netiquette, schmetiquette.” Des Moines Business Record 16.24 (12 June 2000): p 11. Online. MasterFILE Premier. 9 October 2000.
  • “Email Etiquette.” I Will Follow Services. 1997. <>. 9 October 2000.
  • Nucifora, Alf. “Use etiquette when messaging via email.” Memphis Business Journal 21.51 (14 April 2000): p23. Online. MasterFILE Premier. 9 October 2000.
  • Thorton, Sam. “Rules and Regulations: Email Etiquette.” 29 April 1998. <>. 9 October

See Also

Surviving Group Projects in College: Helpful Tips.
What can you do to increase your chances of having a successful group project?

12 Dec 2000 — first submitted by Bauer
23 Jan 2001 — posted by Jerz
16 Feb 2001 — updated by Jerz
25 Oct 2001 — minor updates by Jerz
16 Apr 2003 — further updates & changes by Jerz
10 Jun 2004 — strengthened advice against attachments
28 Aug 2004 — trimmed a few minor redundancies
19 May 2008 — updated items 1-3
20 May 2008 — updated items 2-4
23 Jun 2008 — corrected typos identified by Bob Folline
04 Mar 2010 — adding considerations for mobile email users
08 Mar 2011 — formatting changes
20 Dec 2011 — changed “e-mail” to “email” throughout
03 May 2012— very minor tweaks
22 May 2013— updated info on attachments; minor tweaks to layout and phrasing
02 Jun 2015 — updated items 2&3; minor tweaks throughout
18 Jun 2017 — modest tweaks; added references to emojis; removed a dated reference to “PDAs
18 Dec 2019 — removed dated reference to “Millennials,” most of whom have probably learned these lessons by now

355 thoughts on “Email Tips: Top 10 Strategies for Writing Effective Email

  1. Very good information. Still amazes me how people who send email do not know what BCC stands for.

  2. Thanks for this. Very useful but it should also be remembered that email information should be in “bite-sized” pieces. Otherwise the reader loses the thread at the end of a long spiel.

  3. I really thank you for your useful steps and forms, sometimes I’d say no need to be perfect to write a message to someone, but now I believe it is important to be written like that .

  4. Stumbled across your article today. Was going to cut and paste the parts about subject lines and using standard capitalization and punctuation, and send them to friends and relatives who are particularly guilty – but decided to just bookmark this site for future use when I am REALLY FED UP! I think *I am pretty good about avoiding most of the sins – except for the one about rambling on and on (which I still do in snail mail correspondence as well!). Sending a separate e-mail for each subject would probably be the best solution for someone like me – and it might even help me keep the correspondence shorter…

    Thanks! This is one of the best things I HAVE stumbled across on the Internet in quite a while…


  5. Does not help at all…try writing something worthwhile and meaningful instead of being vague and focusing too much on what not to do

  6. hi sir/ madam,

    It is very usefull to us,

    I am working as a marketing executive, how can i improve my skills, please tell me.

  7. Thanks you very much sir for very needed topic. I am a student of MBA(RM) from Central University Lucknow, UP, India. Please suggest me how can i improve my communication and writing skill.

  8. Very nice learning, may i please know any dedicated site(free) for writing good emails, I always find myself at loss of right words instead of having good vocabulary.


  9. i want to know more about official mail. I am new in mail writing . please help to improve my mail language,
    thanks n best regard,

  10. Thanks for addressing a very needed topic! It’s encouraging to know that others are equally frustrated by missing or otherwise useless email subject lines. However, I am somewhat leery of using the subject line to summarize the content of the email message. Yes, the practice has its place, but I have received too many email messages with no message content at all, only a subject line that does an inadequate job of providing the information I need for an appropriate response. Instead of freeing up my time with this summarized message, my workload has actually increased because now I must follow up with the sender in order to learn all the details I need. And when I don’t even know the person sending the email or I am only slightly acquainted with that individual, and I am greeted by a “message” consisting of a few terse words in the subject line, I find the practice rude and inconsiderate as well as unhelpful. Summarize the email’s message? Absolutely. But in the process, please don’t eliminate essential content from the body of the message.

  11. It is interesting and got clarified with your suggestion. It was at the right time i say your page
    Sivakumar.M ( India,Chennai)

  12. Great Article, thanks! Another great tip I found:

    “When you’re not sure whether to write it down or not, DON’T!”

  13. I’m curious about this scenerio: a person starts mildly flirting with a co-worker through IM. The flirt-ee always responds in caps. Is that a subtle sign that they are not interested in being flirted with by the flirt-er? All caps emails and messages are very unattractive so could “all caps” be a way for someone to discourage unsolicited flirting?

  14. Hi.thank U.very helpful.
    is it nessessery to have a signeture in our emails ?
    my master ask us to write an e_mail for him, the e_mail etiqette is important for him. if you think that signture is important and have effect in my mark please tell me, where I have to place my signture. and if it possible for you tell me some signture. my majore is IT.
    Thanks a lot.

    • I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I’d be willing to bet that putting in serious time and effort improving your English would please your “master” more than a quick fix like adding a signature line. Calling your instructor “master” suggests that you are his “slave,” which is demeaning to you and insulting to him.

      How does your instructor sign his his emails? If you are especially interested in pleasing him, then use his emails as a model.

      If your instructor is going to evaluate your email, ask for models of acceptable and unacceptable emails. But first, look in the syllabus or textbooks to see whether that information is already part of the assigned readings.

  15. Hello,
    Thank you for your information. I cannot underemphasize the importance of your etiqette, especially the comment about walking away from an angry reply, get a coffee and don’t send it. Not only employers, but any recipient, can and will misconstrue or misuse information like this that can permanently and horrendously damage not only a career, but defame a character. Be very careful about email, as this has become a method of unforseen pitfalls…

  16. Hi,

    My Boss has sent mail , like this

    First of all, start improving your communication skills especially during speaking/writing mails to higher ups/colleagues . Please do pick up a book in “Communicative English” or “Business Correspondence” and get started. Please feel free to check with Vinoth/me for assistance as well.

    Please help me

    How to improve my communication skill?

    • I’d suggest that you do just what your boss suggested — pick up a book, and get started.

      You can go to your local library, or spend a few bucks in a bookstore. Study the examples and do the exercises. Join a forum or email discussion list in your field, or in a hobby area where you already have special knowledge. Rather than writing in and saying “Hi, I’m new here, everyone please help me with my business correspondence homework so I can keep my job,” just start offering advice and answering questions. Edit a Wikipedia page, and follow along with the “Discussion” page, and help resolve disputes. Start a blog about something you care about, and practice writing every day. Go to your company’s technical writing department, make friends with the writers, ask them whether there’s some favor you can do for them, in return for their honest opinion. Is it your grammar? Are you too informal, talking to higher-ups like they are your buddies? Are you too blunt, talking to colleagues as if they are your underlings? Is your email address

      I don’t know the culture of your work environment; you will need to educate yourself on proper business writing etiquette, and decide how you can change your communication style.

  17. Very Very Good tips! But I would like to add one more point, that many times people use “Reply to all” option while replying to emails. But replying to all creates a headache for the other people who were in the senders distribution List.

    So, I would like to say that first people should know the difference between “Reply” and “Reply to all” and then think if the reply is important for all or not. If the reply is only meaningful for the sender then there is no point in disturbing others in the senders list.

    Well that was a very nice and informative article. I have bookmarked it for the future reference.
    Thanks for sharing!

  18. Just started job that requires /expccts proper email etiquette. This is the best and simple advise i have found . Thanks

  19. HI? Your e-mail 10 tips are not good, just seems to be waste . All of them very elementary tips. May be my son who knows very well about it than you. Now he is just 7 years old but can do that.

    Don’t be pround of yourself. Your education must be considered just secondary – junior grades.

    Beke, G

  20. i have joined one new company four months back , and i have not yet recieved my SAP authorisation . the first request mail for asking SAP , was just 4 months before ,i had sent almost 15 mail for the same but still they have not done it.
    Can any one please help me in wrting a mail to the IT department for asking for the same … as i have tried 15 times ..

    • They are either choosing to ignore your emails, you aren’t emailing the right person, or your address has been trapped by a spam filter. Try a phone call, physical letter, or personal visit. Or, consider that maybe someone is trying to give you a hint.

  21. Hello Mr. Dennis,

    I am really thankful for what info you have given here. It would be really great if you put up an example of an email asking for a week leave to your senior manager.

    Vijeth J K

  22. Hi Dennis,

    Do you have any suggestions for dealing with external clients/partnerships where the project must succeed and there is difficulty getting the necessary information from the client to be able to move forward with the project and meet deadlines? Specifically looking for diplomatic wording to achieve responses and maintain great rapport with the client.

    Thank you.

    • Only somebody who already knows the relationship — or someone willing to put in the hours necessary to learn about the whole situation — would be able to give any specific advice.

      One problem I see is the phrasing “the project must succeed.” Who says it must succeed? You, obviously; do your outside clients (potential customers? potential donors?) see the same necessity? Might they instead see something optional, or even an annoyance?

      If you are trying to raise funds to fix a leak in the local dam upstream of the city, then you’ve got everyone’s self-interest on your side; if you are knocking on doors during dinner time selling encyclopedias, then the compliance you consider “necessary” (so you can feed your family on encyclopedia commissions, or so you can do whatever noble work your foundations supports) may conflict directly with other people’s plans to keep their money and their time for their own families.

      From what I can see, general email etiquette (the subject of this web page) is not likely to solve the problem you describe. You may instead need a PR professional skilled at appealing to people’s better nature.

  23. Great information – thank you. How would you apply that to external clients where the outcome is dependent on their input and is necessary?

  24. Would you mind providing some examples of how to diplomatically solicit input/responses from associates/clients who repeatedly do not supply requested information from the initial request sent to them? Have to follow up week after week on the same email. Their required input is the dependent domino that falls on the next actions to be taken. Cannot move forward until they respond. I never want to come across as nagging, pushy or demanding or embarrass them.

    So very much appreciate your help.

    • Meredith, you might want to check out a general textbook on business communication.

      Once a few years ago when I found an online student project had plagiarized my work, I sent an email to the professor, then when I heard nothing, two weeks later I forwarded my original email to the professor and the professor’s chair, and then two weeks after that, after having heard still nothing, I contacted the professor, the chair, the dean, a vice-president for PR, and also posted about the whole thing on my blog. (Within a few hours I got an immediate response, and I posted an update saying I was satisfied with the resolution. But I don’t recommend that you take your internal problem into the public arena like that.)

      You might document your efforts to get compliance, along with a quote from whatever spec or regulation that you’re following; spell out what you see as the consequences, and ask your supervisor to talk to their supervisor, to make sure that you’re making the right request to the right people, for the right reasons.

      They may not have the info you want, they may have been told by their supervisor to put your request on the back burner, they may feel this is your problem and not theirs, they may not agree with your definition of “moving forward,” etc. etc.

      If you can make your request a multiple choice question, rather than an essay question, you’ll probably get faster compliance. If you can at least get them to commit to saying “We have no feedback for you,” and the project fails, they can’t come back later and complain that you didn’t listen to their advice. If you have to go on without their suggestions, and the project succeeds, then you can take all the credit.

  25. Hi There
    i need to know how i can delete from THE ATTACHMENT that is including in an e-mail
    some words.
    thank you in advance

    • Evelyn, that answer completely depends on the email client you are using. Try the “help” menu, or search online for a user group devoted to your email software.

  26. Dear Dennis,
    I need help writing an email to possible employer. A month ago, I had an interview with Director of the company & he wanted me to start working for him in couple of months (he is unsure exactly when). I did write “thank you email” immediately after interview, and he responded very kindly that he would like to stay in touch.
    Since he is a very busy person, I would like to remind him of me with an email message. How can I do that without being pushy?
    Thank you for writing such a great article, and for your time in answering my question.

    • I would reply to the last message your potential employer sent you, preferably the one that contained the invitation to stay in touch. If you can say, “Here is an updated resume” that would also be a good reason for a follow-up. Keep your message short.

  27. Our company is opening new branch & Im getting shifted which i dont like, as it will be very far to travel. How can I mail my boss not to shift me to tat new branch & i would like to continue in same branch. Plz reply ASAP.

    • Sounds to me like this is serious enough for a printed letter. This handout is more for routine office communications. Your boss may not intend to give anyone a choice in the matter; and indeed, your boss may simply be passing along news that was decided upon elsewhere. Any business-writing textbook will probably have a section on the “letter of adjustment.” In your letter, don’t use any txtspk shortcuts, and rather than giving your personal reasons for not wanting to move, try to give your boss professional reasons for why the company should keep you where you are.

  28. I know that typing in all caps is considered shouting when it is part of your text, but does that also apply to the subject line ?

    I always thought the subject line was exempt from this rule. Am I wrong? Some one please tell me—

  29. I’m curious of anyone else has encountered the following situation: One person in my company consistently adds his reply to an email to the subject line. Sometimes, that reply is repeated in the body of the email; other times that constitutes the entire response. Not only does this make for very long email subjects, it can make the thread more difficult to follow.

    In more than fifteen years of using email for personal and business communications, I have never previously seen anyone do this. I have searched for etiquette rules on this subject but find nothing that directly addresses it. This person is of a personality type such that he has, to date, ignored polite suggestions he change this practice.

    Any comments or suggestions?

    • I’m assuming this person is above you in the pecking order, or else polite suggestions wouldn’t be so important. I knew of one senior colleague who would put his whole response in the subject line, but I never thought it was worth bringing to his attention.

      If your colleague still doesn’t change his ways after you casually show him how his long subject lines get truncated on your smartphone, or demonstrate how your email reader sorts incoming messages by thread, or show him this website, maybe he’s a more of a phone person, or a face-to-face person, and his lack of email finesse hasn’t impacted his career. Responding to incoming email just may not be a big part of the way he does his job, so the few seconds he might save each of his potential readers is just not weighing on his mind.

      I had a colleague, an education professor, who always typed in all caps. As a new hire, I was mortified that I had offended her, and every time I opened a message from her, I felt like I was being slapped. But it was easier for me to learn to read her messages differently, than it would have been for me to get her to change.

      I used to grit my teeth whenever somebody would send a 2MB attachment to 1000 people to advertise an event, without putting the time and location of the event in the body of the email. I still don’t like having to open attachments, but I don’t want to be THAT GUY who always complains.

  30. These above tips are useful for me in writing emails
    Kindly advise me some more techniques in using and answering letter to clients in hotel management as well as sample of fomal letter
    Thanks for your sharing

  31. Thank you very much. I learned very important things on writing e-mails. Hopefully I will get better and learn how to communicate more better.

  32. Dear Dennis,
    I really enjoyed this article, it helped me to articulate my writing skill. Thanks a lot

  33. I really enjoyed reading your article. I am in the military are we are very formal when emailing someone that is in a higher rank than the sender. We always start with their rank and name and end with v/r (very respectfully) I have seen lots of flaming and folks getting blasted on “reply all.” I will pass this along to other military professionals! Thanks again.

  34. I m very poor in written communication due to lack of vocabulary pl guide me to improve myself by giving me all related much vocabulary material pl……

  35. I'm doing email at my work and this article was very much helpful.I hope you can post other scenarios that may be of great help.


  36. This article on writing proper E-mails and netiquette was helpfull. So many times people have not considered a number of things in this article that made their E-mail confusing, pointless , or frustrating. I hope people take the time to learn the right way to E-mail, and save us all some time.

  37. Hi,
    I am working in bpo company in mailing process, I want to know that if I get mail from customer then how can I reply that customer very nicely

    • Pooja, you might try a business communication textbook, which would have examples of how to respond to a customer complaint, how to give bad news, etc. The basics would apply whether you are communicating in person, over the phone, or by email.

  38. It is a very useful article and Thank you so much for sharing.

    I am a non-English native speaker and I will join Deloitte(a UK company) soon. But I am not confidence with my writing in formal English. Do you have any suggestion for improving “professional email writing” skills? Thanks!

  39. Jessica and Dennis,

    This is just a quick comment to tell you how helpful I found this article. Having just searched "how to compose an informal e-mail" this article was one of the first that came up on the results page.

    I now have a lovely message composed and ready to send. I'll revise it one last time for spelling and grammatical errors before pressing the magic button that will set it free into cyberspace.

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed article.

  40. Dear Dennis: This is a very thought-provoking and interesting article. It is very helpful, indeed. I just have a question for you, if you don’t mind–Does one have to respond to a response email? For example, I had emailed a friend (both personal and professional)a friendly follow-up email,in regard to if he has gotten a chance to read my story. About 3 weeks had passed by when I had sent it to him. After I sent my follow-up email,he had sent me a response to my email barely 10 minutes later to let me know that he has been meaning to write to me, and that he hasn’t forgotten about my story. He will read it a.s.a.p/soon and then connect with/call me soon about it. I assume I can leave it at that, or is it proper ettiquitte to acknowledge/respond to his response to my inquiries? Thank you for writing such a great article, and for your time in answering my question–Best Wishes–Sumona

    • If an email goes two working days without acknowledgment, I should think a polite follow-up is appropriate.

      Responding seriously to other people’s writing takes time; if your friend does that sort of thing for a living, but you’ve asked him to give you free advice, I’m not sure I can think of any gracious way to get him to hurry up already.

      On the other hand, he may have read your work and thinks it would need a lot of work in order to be publishable, but he values your friendship too much to risk hurting your feelings.

      In any case, after this much time has passed, I’d give him a gracious way to back out entirely, while keeping your friendship intact.

      • Sorry, but that wasn't really his question. His question was whether or not it is proper etiquette to respond to a response email. I have the same question. I emailed a prospective job about if a decision has been made yet. She said that it has not been made and they should know by the end of the month. Should I email her back and say thanks for answering and that I would contact her again by the end of the month? Or do I just leave it at that and wait until next week to email her again?

        Thanks :)

  41. There is a colleague here at work that she is used to right ALL CAPS when she does not like something, and that is really bothering me, she even does that with everybody in the office. I think is rude and out of place.
    Thanks for the tips!

  42. It was really good article for the students like us.Keep it up.i really enjoyed alot reading this article.

  43. This was very helpful, but I want to know more about subject lines. It has been a huge topic of discussion in my workplace, because our boss always uses what should be the first line of the E-Mail Body as the subject, then leaves it out of the E-Mail. When we tell her not to do that, because the subject tends to be so long that it gets cut off with … at the end, she says it is informative and tells what the E-Mail is about. The problem is that because it cuts it off with … we tend to miss an important fact that was after the … or the body of the E-Mail makes no sense because we either didn’t read the subject or didn’t see what was after the … What are your comments on this?

    • You might ask a senior colleague or someone not in the exact chain of command to show your boss a screenshot of what her mails look like with the subject line cut off. I agree that’s not what the subject line is for.

  44. I’m thinking about the training of email writing to my colleagues. So I googled this subject then I found your article which’s is one of best I ever read. Thanks a lot.

  45. Hello.

    I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this article. It is one of my weaknesses that I have to start improving and I am glad someone like you can shed a light on the do's and don'ts of the email world. I would have loved to see more examples of how to start an email which requires you to negate someone's request "a NO"-email such as I am sorry to tell you… or I regret to tell you… and also "a YES"-email such as I am happy to let you know… etc. or an email where you would want to ask someone to do something for you as in Could you tell me the… or could you let me know… but I would most of all like to know how I would reply to colleagues that have done something helpful. For example, once my colleague has helped me to search for the information I asked him for and I would like to ask him of more information (bear in mind that we could sit in two different offices in two different countries and even parts of the world, I could be in Europe and he in USA). How would I start the email with a thankful yet humble way yet still showing that it is important that he can retrieve the next load of information as soon as possible. And I do not want to sound to formal or professional since it is a colleague that I have had close contact with but still not too friendly.

    I am looking forward to seeing more tips &amp; tricks of the corporate email world!

    Thank you for an interesting eye-opener.

    • Thanks for your note, Maria. When it comes to the standard business letters (good news, bad news, request for adjustment, etc.) I am not sure email is different enough that it requires separate examples. But perhaps the next time I update this page I can add some links to good examples.

  46. I have a simple signature for everyday use, a more informative one for first-contact situations (that includes links to my websites and social networking profiles) , and one full of legalese (that I would use if I’m discussing a sensitive topic).

    In the old days of Usenet, it was considered bad form to post a message that had a .sig longer than the message itself.

    • i wadnt to know more about office mail. I am totally new in mail writing . please informed me how a is compited

  47. I completely agree with your article. I would have like to seen more about signatures, and how they play into email etiquette. Every email client seems to be different and I always wonder what the best format is for signatures. What do you think?

  48. I can’t tell you how much it bothers me that communications from people I do business with are so often completely devoid of any type of etiquette. In fact, I can always tell what level of services my clients will require based upon the spelling and grammar in their emails and the general way they handle communications. I know that in IT100 classes most universities are teaching internet and email etiqeutte, but it seems that is being lost prior to graduation, by the looks of things…

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