Email Etiquette - Making You Look Good

Roger DeReu

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Email Etiquette probably isn't in the front of most people's minds. But think a minute. Who writes the worst emails; it almost hurts to read them because the format is so bad. Chances are, someone's name just popped into your mind.

Do you want your name to pop into someone else's mind as the one who sends the worst looking emails? Probably not. Do you want others to read your emails? Of course, otherwise, why would you send them?

Most of us have at least some concern for our image.

So why don't we take more care to send better emails? Would you actually mail a letter that looks like some of those emails you send? Certainly not. Now I understand that sometimes you're really just using email as a form of instant messaging:

“do you want to do lunch today?"



"the steakhouse around the corner"

But at least that still looks pretty clean, especially when you clean out the to/from info, or delete all text, before typing in your response. The type of email that looks the absolute worst are those lengthy jokes and stories that go viral and get forwarded to everyone.

You can make the ones YOU initiate or forward really stand out from the rest.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself look GOOD in emails

  • Do not type an email using all CAPS, that implies you are SHOUTING! Also avoid using all lowercase, that implies you are lazy. Do use “CamelCase", the appropriate mix of upper and lower characters.
  • Use a concise, meaningful “Subject" entry. Depending on who you are sending to, you might need the subject line to act like an ad of sorts to entice the recipient into opening the email. Try to do that in 4 - 8 words. Avoid subjects like “Hi" or “Read this" as some spam filters will interpret your email to be spam. Similarly, a blank subject is sometimes seen as spam by some filters. If forwarding an email, make sure you don't end up with several “Re:"‘s stacked together like this: “Re: Re: Re:". That's a dead giveaway that this is an ugly one, and you lose credibility.
  • Remove the address information from the previous sender when you forward an email. Take a couple seconds to delete the “from them" and the “to you". This just clutters the email and sometimes tells the forwardee (if I may) more information than he or she is entitled to. The email is now from you, clean it up so it's readable to your recipient.
  • Remove unnecessary indent indications (">>>") before passing it on. And be aware of what your email client does automatically when replying or forwarding. Too many of those type of characters make it difficult to read, and some will just delete the email without reading on the grounds that it looks like a disaster. On the other hand, don't forward as an attachment unless you think the recipient will not forward further. Few things are more frustrating and amateurish than having to open one after another embedded attachments to finally see that it's another stupid chain email. Forward as “inline text" and be careful with the indents.
  • Delete any text from the email that isn't relevant when replying or forwarding. That way, besides conserving space and bandwidth, it saves everyone time in culling out what really is important in the email.
  • Refrain from the “pass along to 10 people and you'll all get rich" emails. You're not that gullible are you? And check out (, those “this really happened" stories that get passed around before you forward them on. You know the ones, the tear-jerking story about the dog that saved his family, his community and mankind? You will look and feel like an absolute idiot when you forward some sappy story to everyone in your address book and then someone else reply's to everyone you sent it to (another reason to use BCC instead of CC, explained below) with the truth. Plus, you have wasted everyone's time, including your own.
  • Make it a practice to use BCC, or Blind Carbon Copy, when sending emails to more than one person. Many people are justifiably tight lipped when it comes to their email address. Just because they gave it to you doesn't give you the right to give it to others, intentionally or otherwise. Address the email to yourself and put all other addresses in the BCC field so they are “blind", or invisible, to everyone else. If you don't know how to do this, check out my article “Blind Carbon Copy - How and Why to Use BCC".

Believe it or not, when making these recommendations to some individuals, I receive feedback that they just don't care. Lowers them a few notches in my book, that's for sure. I will say here the same thing I have told them. Even if you are inconsiderate of others’ time and privacy, do it for yourself. It's polite, professional and makes YOU look good. And that makes it worth enough for everyone to care.

Roger DeReu has been working with PC's, as a programmer, IT specialist and independent consultant, since 1984. He currently consults primarily with small and medium sized businesses in the Midwest. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional and Small Business Specialist. was originally created to be a free resource for the employees of his clients to have access to his knowledge for benefit of their home PC's.

Sign up for his free weekly e-zine, Tip-Of-The-Week, at


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