Email etiquette: 6 tips to look more professional

Compare your correspondence habits with the tips on this list.


There’s no denying that email has become a go-to form of communication in the working world—especially with the growing prevalence of email—enabled smartphones. In fact, people are increasingly likely to fire off a quick email as opposed to picking up the phone.

Although email may feel like a casual form of correspondence, it helps to keep etiquette in mind, especially if you use email for work.

Younger employees who may not have had much experience using email for professional correspondence can certainly benefit from the following tips. They’re a great refresher for more established employees, too.

Before you click send, use these six email etiquette tips as a guide to keep your messages effective and professional:

1. Meet and greet.

When you start a message, be sure to include a polite greeting. And once you’re done, include a closing sentiment, even if it’s something simple like “thanks” or “have a great day.” Those two details make emails seem more personable and less brusque.

2. Proofread.

Before you send a lengthy or particularly important email, give yourself time to read through the message to check for any errors. Email isn’t just a form of communication; it can help others form an impression of you. If you constantly send notes riddled with spelling and punctuation errors, it won’t do much for your professional reputation.

3. Keep it brief.

Nobody wants to open an email and see a novella staring back at them. Keep your message brief and to the point. Not only will the reader process the information more quickly, but your note will be more effective, since you clearly and concisely outlined what you need.

4. Use smileys sparingly.

When you send work emails, it’s generally a good idea to steer clear of emoticons. The occasional smiley or winking face may be appropriate if you’ve established a rapport with the recipient, but otherwise save the smiles for your text messages.

5. Use a polished style and casual tone.

Although it can be tempting to fire off a quick note in all lowercase letters—especially if you’re on a mobile device—capitalize the first word of each sentence.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, stay away from all caps. They not only distract, but indicate shouting. Who wants to read an aggressive note?

6. Add an email signature.

Add an email signature to your messages, but make sure it’s professional. Include your name, company name, phone number, email address, and website (if applicable).

Don’t forget to do this on your mobile phone, too. On your mobile device, it’s best to change the default signature (“sent from my iPhone,” etc.) to something brief that includes your name, phone number, and email address. It’s up to you if you want to include something clever in your mobile signature, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with a simple, to-the-point format.

Keep this handy checklist nearby, and email etiquette will soon become second nature. Just don’t forget to pick up the phone every now and then, too!

Do you have additional email etiquette tips to add to the list?

Amber Carucci heads up the team of writers for the Burns & McDonnell corporate blog as well as the Burns & McDonnell HR blog, where a version of this article originally appeared. She’s also part of a team that leads the company’s social media efforts.

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