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Email etiquette tips: 2010 roundup

Grammar, spelling, punctuation

Avoid sending email with errors. Read it aloud before sending, and use spell check. Is the tone friendly yet professional? Be polite.

Email forwarding

Remove all email addresses, headers and commentary before forwarding. Never forward chain letters. If you must forward to more than one person, put your address in the TO: field, and others you are sending to in the BCC field.

Email attachments

Don’t just attach a file because it’s convenient. First determine the file’s size and format. Then check with the person to whom you are sending  to make sure these are acceptable.

Colors and type faces

Keep emails professional, polite and to the point. Avoid background colors, changing type styles, sizes and colors, as this can make text difficult to read. Using all caps in email is perceived as shouting, as is the use of the color red.

Email signatures

An email signature is a block of copy that identifies you and includes your contact information. By including your signature, you make it easier for you to be found quickly. Carefully consider whether or not to include images in your signature. These can take a long time to load.

Reply to all

If you are cc:ed on an e-mail and want to respond only to the sender, select the Reply (as opposed to Reply to All) so your response goes only to the original sender.


This is probably one of the most misunderstood email etiquette issue: BCC.  Blind Carbon Copy, is a way of addressing emails to multiple parties without displaying the addresses of everyone you’re sending to. BCC protects private email addresses from being spread to strangers, it helps prevent spam and viruses, and it makes your emails easier to read because the message is cleaner.

Chain letters

We’ve all received email chain letters – urgent alerts that warn us of computer viruses, money making opportunities, and often, cases of a dying child’s last wish. Please, resist the urge to forward these letters. Report the email as spam and trash it.

  • Email chain letters can be scams.
  • They can contain viruses.
  • They will clog up already overtaxed resources.

Email vs phone

Email has its place, but there are those emails that contain more than one question or that require so much clarification that the the back and forth required would probably be handled quicker with a phone call. My friend Sandi Knakal once offered, “After three emails about the same subject, I just pick up the phone.” It’s good advice.

Word attachments

Before attaching that Word document, ask yourself, “Is the information I am sending simply text? If the answer is “no”, copy and paste the text into a plain text email.

  • Word docs are unnecessarily large for the information they contain.
  • Word docs are susceptible to a type of virus known as a “macro virus.”
  • Word docs created with one version may not be readable by another.
  • Opening a Word attachment requires starting up the Word program.

Wait to fill in the “to” field

Although the “TO” email address is the first field in your email program, fill it out last. Start instead by creating the subject line. Then write the content, reviewing it to ensure that it conveys what you intend. Then proofread it. Finally, when you’re sure it’s correct, fill in that TO field.

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