E-Mail Etiquette

Miscommunication can ruin your efforts to effectively get your message across. This is especially true online, where a clumsily compiled email can mean the difference between your reader responding, or hitting the delete button. Try the following tips to help develop clearer online communication.

The subjectinfo-icon line

Your reader’s inbox is frequently flooded with incoming mails demanding attention.  Your subjectinfo-icon line is critical. It gives the reader an overview of your message.  You stand a better chance of getting your reader’s attention with a subjectinfo-icon line that communicates.

Eg.     Office Manager position –  CV  J Mofokeng
Payment query – account no 4677589 – BB Smith
Building quotation query – H Patel

CC (Carbon Copy)

Only send emails to the people who need to receive them. Avoid using the CC (Carbon Copy) to send your messages to everyone, unless the subjectinfo-icon of the email is intended for a specific group. The same applies when replying to an email. Don’t use the ‘Reply to All’ button unless you intend to send your reply to everyone in the recipients list.

BCC (Blind Carbon Copy)

The BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) option is used when sending your email to a group of people who don’t know each other. Think of this as respect. In the same way that you would not broadcast another person’s telephone number, avoid giving out email addresses unnecessarily. Using the BCC option only allows the recipient to see your and their email address, even if you have sent the email to 30 other people.

Keep it Concise

The more concise the message, the better it will come across to the reader and the greater the impact it will have. In general people don’t like reading long messages on a computer screen, tablet or mobile phone.  The longer the message the more chance there is that it won’t be fully read, or even deleted.


There are two aspects to consider here: The kind of file you’re attaching, and the size of the file.  Your reader may not have the same software – or software version.  So save and send in a program that is in general use.  Also, many companies restrict the size of an attachment – often no more than 1.5 MB.

Capital letters.

Don't write in capital letters. It makes a body of text awkward to read and makes it look as if you are shouting at your recipient!

Would you really say that?

Bear in mind that your email can be shared and sent on to anyone else, either accidentally or with intent. So use discretion when writing an e-mail. If the information is sensitive, rather make a call.


Keep the use of smileys or any cute animations to personal emails only – and even then, use them sparingly. They have no place in business communications.

General Rules

Beware of unintentional spamming. Sending unsolicited emails to large groups of people is spam. Avoid sending such emails unless there is a solid reason to do so.

Always include a signature and contact details at the end of your message.

Run a spell check but don’t just accept every suggestion. Bear in mind that the spell-check recognises character-strings. You still need to do your own quality check.

Enjoy the speed and efficiency of your e-mail system.  But always remember that your image travels with your message.  Preserve them both!