Business Email Etiquette

In Brief...

There are a number of email dos and don'ts to be aware of to make sure email interactions are efficient and appropriate.


Who to Copy

Be respectful of other people's time by copying only those people who need to be copied, either because they have to take action as a result of the email or because they have to be aware of the issue being discussed in the email.

One Topic per Thread

Do not address multiple topics in the same email. Instead, write separate emails with different subject lines. Reasons for this are:

  1. If it ends up being necessary to involve other people in the discussion of one of the topics, it is helpful to be able to forward the email without including information on a topic the person does not need to read about.
  2. People often have lots of email in their inboxes. It is helpful to be able to tell from the subject of the email what each specific email is about.
  3. To keep things simple. Emails that only include one topic are easier to resolve and archive or delete, which is helpful with respect to managing one's inbox.
  4. To make it easier to find email discussions in the future. If a discussion about a topic is buried in an email thread with a different subject line, it can be hard to find and refer back to.

Using Bcc

Bcc, or blind carbon copy, allows you to copy a recipient into your email without those in the To and Cc fields knowing that the person was copied. There are a few reasons to use Bcc:

  1. It is useful when you are emailing a large number of recipients or recipients who should not see each other's email addresses.
  2. It prevents recipients from Replying to All.
  3. It is a way to keep a person in the loop without letting others know you have done so.
  4. It is a way to remove people from a thread who no longer need to be included in the conversation. When doing this, it is best to let everyone know you have removed the people via Bcc.

Bullets and Numbering

Just like in other forms of business writing, bullets and numbering should be applied in email messages to help make the content of your message easier to read, where appropriate.

Don't Assume Privacy

Emails can easily be forwarded and new people can be copied into threads. As such, be very careful when including information that you might not want others to see in emails. Also, be aware that employers own employees' work email and are free to read it if they want to.

Respond Promptly

Always respond promptly to emails, even if it's simply to confirm receipt and let the sender know you won't have a chance to carefully read the email until a later time.

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Author: Margaux Judge

Margaux Judge has worked as an e-learning editor and instructional designer for over ten years, writing and editing a wide variety of courses, from technical topics to soft skills. She has a Bachelor's degree in English and Textual Studies from Syracuse University and a Master's degree in Television Writing from Boston University.