What is the proper etiquette for email messages?

  • Do check to see what your organisation's email policy is. Many organisations have rules about the types of message that can be sent and also if your email is monitored or screened.
  • Do try to think about the message content before you send it out.
  • Do make sure that the content is relevant to the recipients. Nobody likes to receive junk email.
  • Do be polite. Terseness can be misinterpreted.
  • Do trim any quoted message down as much as possible.
  • Do try to use humour and irony sparingly. You can use smileys such as :) or :( to indicate facial expressions, but make sure that the recipient understands what they mean.
  • Do ensure that you have a relevant "Subject" line.
  • Do try to quote from the original message where relevant. You can break the quoted message down into paragraphs and comment on them individually to make it clearer.
  • Do be patient, especially with inexperienced email users. Give people the benefit of the doubt - just because you are familiar with email etiquette, it doesn't mean that they are.
  • Do include a brief signature on your email messages to help the recipient understand who it is from, especially if you are dealing with someone you do not know very well.
  • Do be careful when replying to mailing list messages, or to messages sent to many recipients. Are you sure you want to reply to the whole list?
  • Do remember to delete anything that isn't needed or is trivial.
  • Do remember to tell people the format of any attachments you send if they're anything other than basic Microsoft Office file types.
  • Do tell your correspondent if you forward a message to somebody else to deal with, so they know who to expect a reply from.
  • Do use emphasis where its useful to do so. If your email system doesn't allow bold or italics then a common convention is to use a *star* either side of the word you want to stress.
  • Do understand that languages such as English differ in spelling between different countries. "Organisation" and "humour" are the correct spelling in British English, but in American English it would be "organization" and "humor". Non-native speakers of English may use a variety of national spellings.