CADDManager on September 30th, 2008

More on the proper use of email…  again, if I have not given credit for something that is contained here, forgive me and let me know where it is located so I can link to it.

Writing Email
Keep your email short – it is best to limit yourself to five or six bullet points or a couple of paragraphs. If the recipient has to scroll down to read the whole message – you have written too much. Long topics should be covered with attachments.

Try to have only one topic or action point per email.
If email is used as an approval process, print the email that includes the approval and add it to your job folder.

Do not send your email to people who don’t need to know about it. Do not use emails as a means of reporting your tasks to someone who will not contribute to the conversation.

Use the CC and BCC fields where appropriate.

Cc stands for carbon copy which means recipients addresses appearing after the Cc: header would receive a copy of the message. The Cc header would also appear inside the header of the received message for every recipient to see.  Don’t pass out peoples email addresses this way.

Bcc stands for blind carbon copy which is similar to Cc except that the Email address of the recipients specified in this field do not appear in the received message header. The recipients in the To or Cc fields will not know a copy sent to these bcc addresses. Be aware the blind copies can also be forwarded and the recipient may let others know that they received a copy. The point of BCC is not secrecy. Use BCCs when addressing a message that will go to a large group of people who don’t necessarily know each other and you do not have permission to share email addresses.

Do not use BCC to tip someone off about something that you are hiding from others on the email distribution.

Just as it is not polite to give out a person’s telephone number without his or her knowledge, it is not polite to give out someone’s email address. For instance, when you send an email message to 30 people and use To or CC to address the message, all 30 people see each other’s email address. By using BCC, each recipient sees only two–theirs and yours.

Stationary and Background images

Do not use stationary or any background images or sidebar images. These tend to annoy some recipients and can cause problems when someone replies.  These kinds of things really bug me.  Colored background also bug me.

Do not use colored fonts in email. Some people may not be able to see the differing colors. Use underline or bold (sparingly) to highlight text. Understand the these highlights may be lost if the recipients email client does not recognize them.

Courtesy and politeness

Email combines some of the worst features of written communication. You can respond immediately without time for thinking it through, but have none of the advantages of a face-to-face conversation, such as being able to read facial expressions, or quickly correcting misconceptions.  One person I know has a delay on his outgoing emails so he can catch them before they go out if he has made a statement that he rethinks.

Don’t write in CAPITALS as it is considered to be SHOUTING. Avoid sarcastic comments, as these can be taken out of context and be very hurtful. Use emoticons or smilies sparingly (if at all), more than a couple in a message look tacky. They are never totally appropriate or professional in email communication. Never use emoticons as an excuse to write something you would not say to someone face-to-face.  Do not circulate emails which are critical of someone’s conduct to people who do not need to know – this constitutes bullying or gossip.

Subject line

Always include a subject line in your message. Almost all email programs present you with the subject line when you browse your mailbox so it is often the only clue people will get as to what the email is about. Make sure the subject line is meaningful and descriptive (e.g. “Today’s meeting of the training committee – an agenda”, not “Hello”). Messages without subject lines are also more likely to be identified and tagged as SPAM or deleted before being read by the recipient.  Be sure to include something that will tip of the recipient that it is legit.

Consider including a preface in your subject line to flag for ease of understanding and sorting. Use the project number or name (e.g. “3102 – Project Status”)

Others have used Codes in the subject line, like ACTION: or INFO:, before he subject.   This lets people know what they need to do.


There are many different mail programs running on a number of different platforms such Apple Macs, PCs, or Linux/Unix computers. Messages do not necessarily translate well between different programs or platforms. Be aware that fancy formatting, columns, tables and such may get scrambled.

Again – no wallpaper, background images or stationary. A plain white background is a good standard.
Remember that what you create in your compose window is not necessarily what the recipient sees – they may not have color or font-style formatting in their email program, for example.

If your standard format will be RTF or HTML, then understand that your message may loose formatting if someone is using a plain-text reader.

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4 Responses to “Email Guidelines – Part 2 – Writing emails”

  1. should we use hi or hai while email writing

  2. When it is a personal email – sure

    When it is a corporate email to internal co-workers – sure

    When it is more formal – nope

  3. Hi, what should be line spacing after the greeting and before signature?

  4. I usually leave one line after the greeting and one line before the signature. Email is not a formal format like a letter. Formatting something for print, like a formal letter, may have differing rules.

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