Email Etiquette in the Workplace


We all have received a wide variety of email. Because email has become so second nature in the workplace, it’s easy to forget some of the etiquette that goes along with it.  It’s easy to send an instantaneous response to mark it off your to-do list and move on to the next item.

Keep it short and to the point – Depending on the topic, emails can get long.  It’s important to realize that not everyone has the time to read every word of a long email, and they may not be able to digest it all. Make it easy for them by indicating the main point of the email in the first sentence, and using bullet points to summarize what you are trying to say.  You can use bold and/or colors to indicate any actions that they have to take or any response that you are expecting back. This helps organize the email and helps the reader focus on what you are trying to communicate.

Think of the urgency – Not everyone uses email the same way.  Some may get their email on their phone, and respond right away, while others will take their time to respond.  Consider the urgency of the topic and the response time that you would like to achieve.  If it is something urgent, email may not be the right way to communicate which in case you may need to use other means of communication.

Don’t make it personal – Email is open to the reader’s interpretation.  Because it’s something that we read and process, the way that we interpret the information in the email can be different than what the author intended.  Try to keep it objective and related to the topic being discussed.  Let’s see a simple example.  I send out an email to a group of reviewers of a draft contract that I’m working on.  I indicate in the email that I would like their feedback.  I get responses back with edits to the document. Do I take those responses personally?  Absolutely not.  They are critiquing the draft contract, not me. And, the contract is something that I’m creating on behalf of the organization, so it is a team effort.  Email lacks body language and tone, so we can easily end up misinterpreting the intention.

Use links and minimize attachments – Have you ever thought to yourself “I know I have that attachment in my email, somewhere?” In the workplace, usually there are shared drives where you can place your documents and provide others a link to where they are stored.  This provides a common way for all to access the document rather than looking up email.  This also helps reduce hoarding problems in emails.  Doing this minimizes the need to use email as the primary means for looking up documents and storing them.

Use “Thank you” sparingly – Have you ever met someone who replies “Thank you” to almost every email that you send?  After a while, I tend to ignore their replies and I become complacent.  Therefore, save your “thank you” (and the relevant network traffic) for when you are really grateful and show them in person.

Purvi Bodawala is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Bill McFadden

All are excellent recommendations. Another recommendation I would make is to send the e-mail only to the individuals who are directly involved. Many times I have received e-mail regarding items I am at best only peripherally involved in or on some occasion not involved at all. The tendency is to make sure all are included, which often times is a positive. But don’t include those who will have little to no impact on the matter at hand. That is part of what clutters e-mail inboxes.


Unless a “thank you” is totally perfunctory, I consider it to be good manners. Brevity can be your friend but also a trap. If brevity generates a lot of back and forth questions, then how brief is it really? Some topics simply require that the reader work to understand and process a message.

Yolanda Washington

I agree with another comment. I think a “Thank You” never hurts, and lets the people you deal and or work with know that you are appreciative of their time.


Another point to add is “use of punctuation.” I have staff that enjoy using “exclamation points.” I delicately try to explain to them that you are implying a tone. Such as Listen to me! In the email it shows, Read Me! It’s knowing when and how to use them.

Jerry Byonga

Say Thank you as many times as your say you can say Thank You. There is little appreciation for our coworkers, colleagues, and family and nothing worse than being ungrateful.
Thank you Purvi. Thank You GovLoop for educating us and making us better people. Thank you writers for taking the time to find interesting topics to write. Keep up the good work.

Sue Burke

Beautifully said! Many seem to have forgotten that simple kindness can have a significant impact on both the giving and receiving end of that ‘thank you’. Common courtesy makes our world more equitable and tolerant.
Thank you for that little reminder, Jerry.


I have set up a response rule to cc emails that thanks the sender and explains that I am unlikely to read it immediately and to email direct or call if it’s urgent. The rule excludes VIP’s.

Jean Mayne

One habit I have that I’ve tried to break myself of is typing things like 🙂 in professional communications. It’s become such a habit in my personal communications, I have to consciously edit myself. However, expressing light-hearted-ness or happiness in textural ways can sometimes be cumbersome.

Tim Gingrich

80% of your content should be in the Subject Line. A good e-mail should be up front. Also, a good subject line makes it much easier to find the information you are looking for once it is filed away. Never send and e-mail without one.