University of Houston-Victoria

Curriculum and Student Achievement

Email Etiquette

The use of email in institutions, such as universities, corporations, and government agencies is steadily increasing, even replacing the letter and phone call in some offices. Here are some tips to help you create clear, effective email messages.

Before writing your email message, you will want to

  • Compose your thoughts before composing your email messages. By giving careful consideration to your message before writing, you will avoid rambling messages. 
  • Establish a clear subject line. Many busy professionals who receive many email messages choose to read or delete an email without reading based on the subject line. You will want to keep the subject line short, but let it describe the message's content.

As you compose your messages, keep several things in mind:

  • Quickly establish the context of the message and use the appropriate organizational formulas. Many professionals receive more than twenty messages a day, so don't send back a message saying "no," establish what you are saying "no" to. Use the appropriate organizational formula when you write good/neutral news correspondence, bad news correspondence, or persuasive messages. 
  • Keep messages short. Readers are able to quickly read and digest short messages. 
  • Consider the audience of the email message and his or her needs. For example, you will only want to send attachments when the audience needs or has requested the information the attachment contains. Also, don't use emoticons (those symbols that are meant to display emotions such as :-) ) in the workplace. While acceptable in personal email correspondence, emoticons are generally not used in formal correspondence; most workplace correspondence, even email, is formal. 
  • Always be polite. Address your reader with the appropriate salutation (Dr., Mr., Ms.).

Edit and proofread your message carefully:

  • Remember to use standard capitalization, spelling, and punctuation. Some individuals write email messages without any words capitalized or with every word capitalized, with misspelled words, or with grammar errors. Good communication follows the normal capitalization, spelling, and grammar rules. (Be sure to avoid ALL CAPS; ALL CAPS connotes you are shouting.) 
  • In email messages, avoid slang and offensive language as well as acronyms that may be unfamiliar to your audience.

Before you press the send button, keep these things in mind:

  • Remember there's someone human on the other end of the email. Ask yourself: would I say this to his or her face? If the answer is "no," re-read and re-write until the answer is "yes," or save the email as a draft and look at it again later. 
  • Remember that your messages can be saved or forwarded to another reader. 
  • Remember when you're quoting from or forwarding an email message to obtain permission from the writer of the email message.

Once you press send, you can't take it back.

Finally, remember that email is an online conversation, so re-read and re-write until you have an email that reflects the message you wanted to send.