Email etiquette

Margarita K. | August 14, 2023
9 mins

So you’ve launched your website. How do you write a proper email to communicate with your customers? Crafting emails to meet your customers’ needs can be a daunting task, especially with the vast amount of spam emails and increasingly short attention spans of readers these days. Let’s take a deep-dive into email etiquette, but first, we’ll go through the basics of when and why you’d use email in the first place.

When to use the phone vs. email

Think of it like this: Often, you won’t have a direct phone number for your customer, but will have a direct email address. In these instances, email’s the best way to reach them because there’s no ‘gatekeeper’. Also, if your recipient is halfway around the world in another timezone, sending an email gives them the opportunity to view it on their terms, when they have a free moment.

What is Email Etiquette?

Email etiquette refers to a set of rules and guidelines of best practices when it comes to communicating through emails. Things like writing short and to-the point messages, proofreading your emails before sending, using an appropriate signature, and much more. 

The guidelines may differ depending on the industry or company, but the overall idea is to be respectful, polite, and clear.

Why is email etiquette important?

Email etiquette plays a crucial role in various areas. Let’s take a look at some examples of email etiquette:

  • Building relationships: Email etiquette enhances communication with customers and/or business partners and creates an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.
  • Effective communication: Ensuring you obey the rules of email etiquette will highly reduce misunderstandings, and save everyone time reading and understanding what you’re trying to say. 
  • Professionalism: Email is one of the most used tools in the professional world. Writing with email etiquette in mind will give a good impression and show you respect others.

Rules of Email Etiquette

Let’s start off with the basics of email etiquette for business. Regardless of whether you’re sending an email, old-fashioned letter, or even a text, all professionals communicate with a certain degree of formality in their language. Respond with courtesy, pleasantries, and directness and you’ll be on your way to a beneficial business relationship.

Subject lines

A good subject line will almost guarantee your contact will open your email immediately. In a competition for eyeballs, the clearer your subject line, the better. Write your subject field in a clear, concise manner. Never use all caps or all lowercase as this not only looks unprofessional but will most likely get you flagged as spam.

Below are some examples of short but specific subject lines:

  • Introducing John Smith to your Agency
  • Following up from XYZ Conference
  • Nice to meet you at the XYZ Forum last week
  • Reminder: Business Dinner Hyatt Hotel this Tuesday
  • Your experience with Zone Hotels, share with us!
  • Attn: Mr. Smith: Follow up from our meeting last week
  • As requested, contract XYZ information enclosed

Body copy

The golden rule is to keep it short and sweet. Use a friendly tone of voice, keep to the subject matter in your headline, and don’t ramble off-topic. If there are main points to get across, feel free to use bullet points or a numbered list.

Think about being the recipient of your email and how that person’s day is most likely as busy as yours. Ask yourself how this message will be the most productive for all parties involved.

Create a rough template for yourself that you’ll be able to use for almost every email you send. Include a pleasant greeting, the reason for your message, a request or call to action, and a practical closer. This formula can be adapted for many instances across professional communications.


Set your email to auto-respond with your signature at the bottom of each message to follow the best practice of email signature etiquette. Doing so presents a consistent, professional image across all communications. Your signature should include your full name, job title, business, and methods of communication — which should include your website and phone number. Make it easy for your contacts to stay in touch and if applicable follow you on Social Media. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can all be included as long as they’re your business accounts.

Sending attachments

We can’t stress this enough: Do not send large files without asking first. If you have a large file to send, ask in a preliminary message to see if the recipient’s email server can handle the incoming message. If not, ask them if there is a preferred method, whether it's Dropbox, WeTransfer, or any other separate file-sharing delivery service.

If you must send attachments in your email, keep to a maximum of three.

Formality & familiarity

The importance of formal language varies depending on profession and business culture, so it’s best to err on the side of good email manners with your customers, especially in the initial stages of contact.

Greetings & salutations

Until someone says “Call me Dave!”, start off with a basic polite but formal tone.

  • Depending on the profession, you can begin with the traditional
    • Dear Mr. Jones,
    • Hello Mrs. Smith,
  • Professional but cordial
    • Greetings Mary,
  • More Familiar
    • Hi John,
  • Avoid
    • Hey!
    • To whom it may concern (unless it truly is a blind email to an ‘info@‘ address with no specific name attached)

These are standard polite formalities that are universally appreciated, and until a familiar rapport is built, it is always recommended to begin with formality without assuming a close friendship.

Tone of voice: Keeping it clear & friendly

Professional relationships rely on tone of voice. When using email, it can be difficult to infer the subtle cues that would be clear in an in-person meeting. In general, when it comes to business email, you’ll want to avoid humor, snarky jokes, or memes.

Keep to the subject at hand, be clear and concise, and keep in mind your recipient is just as busy as you are! It’s all about building trust and making it easy for them to reply.


To avoid being flagged as spam, prioritize your message content over formatting. Bold faces, unnecessary inserted images, crazy fonts, and different colors will tend to annoy the recipient or give your message a spammy quality. Keep it simple and clear, and your chance of getting a response will be much higher.

TO vs CC vs BCC: How to use them correctly

Who on your mailing list needs to read the email you’re writing? If you’re sending responses to a group, or keeping an interested party in the loop of the conversation, make sure you’re following the email replies etiquette. 

Understanding what TO, CC, and BCC will help you obey ‘email replies etiquette’, and could also help you avoid potentially awkward situations. 

TO and CC perform mostly the same function these days. You can add a list of recipients to both. Where you might choose to use CC (Carbon Copy) over simply adding the recipients to TO, is if there is one or more primary recipients, but others you want to include in the message thread.

BCC means Blind Carbon Copy. As the name suggests, the primary recipients in the email thread won’t see anyone who has been added to the BCC line. 

Reply all?

Double-check before hitting ‘Reply All’ in an email response. Always ask yourself if everyone on the email chain needs to read your response. If the message is confidential, make sure your response is only to the recipient that needs to read it.

7 Email Etiquette extra tips

Proofread every email before you hit send

Maintaining good email habits start with proofreading before sending. Are all the intended recipients on the list or are there unintended people included? As we’ve mentioned, being careful with , TO, CC and BCC will be appreciated on the other end.

Timing your response

Keeping in touch in a timely manner is a great way to build a good client base and show off your email etiquette. Set aside time during your workday to answer emails; for example, an hour or two in the morning as you start your daily tasks. Unless it is an emergency, follow ‘email response time etiquette’ by responding within 24 hours during the business week and you’ll be on the path to a fruitful professional relationship.


Along the lines of jokes, cynical memes, and other humor, stay away from emojis in the professional realm. The potential for misinterpretation is huge, not to mention the lack of formality.

Avoid undercutting your professional image by staying away from them altogether. The key is to know your audience. A single smiley emoticon from a colleague is not the end of the world, but outside the workplace, with unfamiliar business relationships, it’s best to stick to the written word.

Down-edit replies & referencing previous emails

In some instances, you’ll want to show your contacts and customers you’re email savvy by responding to the topic at hand. Keep the response friendly, light on content, and edit out previous content that no longer applies. This includes simply cutting out the unnecessary trail of email responses from the previous thread. Select the text to be cut and simply hit ‘Delete’. This leaves your recipient with less clutter to contend with, and makes it much easier for them to read and respond.

When to down-edit

Removing e-mail headers, signature files, and disclaimers that are repeated at the bottom of messages gets rid of most of the junk of a lengthy reply. Top-posting — when you just hit reply and send on a long email thread — can annoy your recipients. If there is no need to reiterate every single message, then down-editing shows savvy email etiquette to all included on the message.

When not to down-edit

Putting everything into writing is the best way to maintain a legal record and be crystal clear in what you say. Phone conversations usually mean there’s no record of what was said, and this could be problematic if an issue ever escalates to a courtroom setting. An email thread at least provides a record of what was said. Even if a dispute starts in a phonecall, it’s worth switching to email for this reason.

But when your communications are about a legal matter or another intricate back-and-forth where a record of everyone’s input might be useful in the future, keeping all correspondence is a good method to cover yourself if the messages are ever used in any sort of dispute or contract.

Choosing the right tool

If you plan to send marketing emails, apart from creating an email according to email etiquette, it’s also important to have a reliable service. This video on choosing an email marketing tool for your business will help you decide on the right email marketing service for you. Combining a good email service with a well written email makes your strategy work better for sure.

To sum up, knowing these basic email etiquette rules and tips should help you keep your emails professional and relevant. Apply email etiquette in your emails using Namecheap Private Email — a professional business email service that starts from only $14.88/year, and enjoy a secure and reliable webmail.


Picture of Margarita K.

Margarita K.

Private Email Product Operations Specialist

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