Shirley's Articles / Email Essentials


In personal relationships the conventions of behaviour are called etiquette. In email we have netiquette – a set of rules for email that have evolved from experience. All your emotions and subtleties have to be incorporated into what you write, so misunderstandings are easy to create. Here are my tips for better netiquette:


ever leave a response too long.
It’s common courtesy to respond to a message as quickly as you can – even if you have to say that a detailed response will be sent later.


mail addresses must be correct.
Correctly addressed email messages are received within seconds, but it can take a while to receive an error message letting you know that an incorrectly addressed message wasn’t delivered. Get your email addresses right first time.


ake off the caps lock. DON’T SHOUT!
Even though you want to get noticed, please do not use capitals in email messages – this is like shouting – it is rude and will usually be counter-productive. And also … NEVER RESORT TO EXCESSIVE PUNCTUATION*@!!**?!!!!


nformality is OK in emails.
Replace formal salutations like “Dear Leslie” with “Hi Leslie” or even just “Leslie”. Similarly, replace “Yours sincerely” with “Best wishes” or some other informal closing. (Try to avoid the overused ‘Regards’ and horribly abbreviated things like Tx and Tnks & Rgs!)


uestion your subject heading.
People are most likely to read important looking emails first. Give your messages a clear and specific subject heading that will get noticed.


se short sentences and short paragraphs.
The shorter your messages, the more likely they will be read and understood. Remember to paragraph just the same as in other business documents.


numerate with numbers or bullets.
Present your messages attractively. Use numbers, bullets or sub-headings if possible – this will add to the clarity of your message.


idy up long sentences to eliminate waffle.
Tapping away at the keyboard as you think, it is easy to allow sentences to become too long. Read through your message carefully and improve clarity and understanding.


ake a pride in your finished message.
Make sure your message is accurate, brief and clear as well as attractively presented. In this way it will be understood and will achieve the desired results.


nsure everything is right before you hit ‘send’.
You cannot call an email back for second thoughts, so get it right first time!
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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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