We use email every day.  For work.  For fun.  For love letters.

It’s so easy.  The standards are so low. Even at work—the standards are low-er than other forms of communication.

email etiquette rules

But you’re a writer.  And as a writer, you have the unique ability to make your emails stand out among the masses.  You are capable of crafting the perfect email.

Here are three email etiquette rules that will help you do so:

1. Use an Appropriate Tone

Tone is everything. Use of the wrong tone has got to be the number one mistake (except maybe typos) that people make when writing emails—they don’t pay close enough attention to tone.

Work emails, for example, must always have a professional tone, but there is more to consider than that. Should the email be casual or formal? Helpful? Approachable? Appreciative?  Not all professional emails sound the same.

Of course, you don’t just write emails at work. You may want to express something difficult to a loved one (from your personal account).  Or ask an unresponsive bridesmaid why she isn’t pulling her weight.

Tone is still everything.

 Ask yourself, do you sound more defensive or angry than you intended?  Does your sympathy email sound impersonal?  Have you acknowledged the other person’s point of view?

For both work and personal emails, consider to whom you are writing, and the impression you want to leave her with.  Take advantage of the opportunity you have to think before sending an email.  Finally, re-read it as if you are the other person, thinking about how she might respond to your words.

2. Keep the Email as Short as Possible

“Short as possible” may mean one paragraph or it may mean six pages—but be conscious of the length of your email.

 Yes, you read that correctly.

It takes more time to write a shorter email.

Re-reading, re-writing, and other editing takes time.  We’re all busy people, but if you want your email to be read (and to earn the appreciation of your recipient), you’ll spend a few extra minutes eliminating redundancies and other unnecessary information.

3. Consider these Other Tips

  • Emails sometimes get published. Think about whether you would stand by your email if it was published in The Washington Post.
  • Meticulously check for typos.  If you’re sending a mass email, try reading it backwards.  In other words, read the last sentence first, then the second to last sentence and so on, until you reach the greeting.  This will help catch mistakes you may have otherwise glossed over.
  • Don’t enter the person’s email address in the “To:” box until your email is complete.
  • Double check the subject line, your signature block, and anything else that will be included in the email.

Do you have any email writing tips? Let us know in the comments.


Take fifteen minutes to write an email with these email etiquette rules in mind. Don’t forget to share in the comments section!

Monica M. Clark
Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).
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