Shirley's Articles / Email Essentials

The Three Essential Es Of Email Etiquette

What percentage of your day would you say it taken up by reading or responding to emails? A recent estimate from Fortune Magazine puts the figure at 28%! Email is fast becoming one of our most essential and pervasive forms of professional communication. How we communicate with people electronically matters. Each word of your email is your representative in a space where you have no voice and are rarely allowed a chance to change a bad first impression.

So what makes a perfect business email? Follow these simple steps:

Enter clearly

The subject line of an email is as important as the body. Put some effort into making a concise subject that conveys the exact nature of the message you are sending. Avoiding an endless string of RE: and FWD: will make the reader more inclined to actually open your note. Avoid using selling language or demands in your subject line. The use of the imperative voice should be reserved for the body text. One useful tactic is to use the colon to separate and expand on a complex idea in the subject line- for example an email post about a suggestion to try a new type of paper for the photocopy machine may have the subject line ” A Suggestion: New Paper” or “Copy Machine: A Suggestion”. This clearly conveys the essence of the message while being pleasingly pithy. When someone receives a well-titled email, they know at a glance that it is important to read and worthy of their attention.

Edit down

Spelling counts, but save your flowery prose. Clearly define the objective and the action you wish the reader to take. Do not pad your message with lengthy explanations and meandering monologues about your hopes and fears. Business emails should be powerful and short. Your email body should be structured logically with the action clearly stated. Try this structure:

Hello Name

Opening statement regarding shared past experience or common interest. Purpose of the email. What action I hope will arise from the email.

1) Point 1 explained clearly, and why it is relevant.

2) Point 2 or explained clearly, and why it is relevant.

Proposed course of action. Offer evidence or perspective. Elicit feedback.

Exit gracefully

Your sign off says a lot about you. Try to keep it down to three lines maximum and avoid “inspirational quotes” and strings of descriptive adjectives here. If your phone slaps on “sent from iPhone” go into settings and turn that off. No one wants to know that you sent it from your phone or tablet.

Include your first and last name, followed by your role in the business most relevant to the subject of the email or business relationship only. Don’t include your degrees and all your life accomplishments. Keep it simple.

Your communication should be much more clear and concise if you follow these three Es.

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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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