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Email etiquette


I am running a training session on email etiquette, covering firstly how to structure and compose an email, and secondly how to decide whether email is the most appropriate medium to use (as opposed to phone or face to face contact).

Does anyone have any examples of good and bad emails to use in an exercise, or indeed any exercises around writing emails that they would be willing to share with me please?
Colette Johnson

12 Responses

  1. Some Ideas
    Hi Colette,

    Some idea’s.

    Use the PASS model

    Purpose – Thinking about what the e mail is about and getting to the point.

    Action – What to put in the subject. imeediatly telling the reader what they have to do. Read Only, Response Required, FYI and Action

    Supporting information – Provide all supporting documents for the reader to be able to do their action

    Subject – Ensuring that in the subject field we say what the message is about. Write the subject after the email so you know what the email is about.

    I know this is a bit rambling. if you want further details in a betetr format let me know


  2. E-mail writing tips/Exercise
    Hi Colette,

    Stuart has covered the key points I think. Some other things you might like to include:

    -Due date: When asking for action, state clearly when the action must be completed by (this helps the recipient prioritize, and improves the chances of a timely response)

    -Formatting: Use tables, headings, and bold and underlining to help organize and highlight information

    -Tone and manner: Use appropriate language for the situation and for your relationship with the recipient (Senior/junior to you? Colleague?)

    -Spelling and punctuation: Ensure your mails are typo-free to project professionalism

    -Structure: A basic structure to follow for most e-mail:

    a. Subject Line: Action required, due date, topic addressed in mail

    b. Salutation: e.g. “Dear XXXX”, “Hi XXXX” etc

    c. Opening Line: State purpose/summarize contents of mail, repeat due date

    d. Body: Required details

    e. Offer further help, e.g. “Please do not hesitate to contact me if you you need further assistance.” “Feel free to call me if you have any questions.”

    f. Complimentary close: e.g. “I look forward to meeting with you.” “I appreciate your continued support.”

    g. Closing: e.g. “Regards,” “Best regards,”

    h. Name/Title/Contact details

    A simple exercise might be:

    1. Trainees look at and evaluate a “poor example” e-mail, which exemplifies the points above and the points raised by Stuart (e.g. unhelpful subject line, no clear objective/objective given at end, no due date, inappropriate tone and manner, poor formatting, spelling/punctuation errors.) It should simulate e-mails which trainees actually write (try to get hold of examples of their e-mail if you can).

    2. Trainees compare own answers with “good example” e-mail, i.e. a better version of e-mail reviewed in 1. (suggest creating the good example first then messing it up rather than the other way round!)

    3. Trainer draws out the key considerations of writing effective e-mail from the good example, writes on whiteboard/presents in PowerPoint.

    4. Trainees write e-mail based on a given situation or on a situation of their own choice (could be done in pairs) within a given time limit (say 5 or 10 mins).

    5. Trainees “send” their e-mail to another pair (i.e. pass the paper they have written on to that pair). Trainees evaluate the other group’s e-mail and give feedback.

    Another variation or follow-up exercise would be for trainees to print and bring examples of their mail to the session and evaluate/rewrite them using the guidance provided.

    Hope that is useful.

  3. email ettiquette
    Hi Colette,

    Another suggestion for you. You may want to incorporate the communication model. You could describe the following percentages as to how we communicate:

    Body Language – 55%
    Tone – 38%
    Words – 7%

    This enables you to go into further detail and ask for examples of when words are the only form of communication how the message may be interpreted in different ways.

    This can often lead to discussions of text messages too (if relevant, but also good to make the point).

    As an aside… a pet hate of mine is the ‘FYI’ email forwarding information. Agghhhhh!

    Best regards,


  4. an example of poor email
    Hi again Colette,

    I have just received a terrible example of good email etiquette.

    An email that contains the whole email content (a paragraph worth) in the subject bar.


    Best regards,


  5. a suggestion about communication…
    Hi Colette,

    Most of the problems i have encountered from ‘receivers’ of e-mails is the mis-reading of the emotion and their getting very uptight over it! A simple exercise in reading the offending e-mail out loud in different tones of voice can help here.

    Also, on the cipd website, in the customer service section, there is a very helpful exercise on communication, specifically the factors that influence ‘sending and receiving’ information. Or i can send it onto you if you e-mail me. For example, i recently sent an e-mail request to some friends asking for an electronic version of a logo that we use, and because i used the word ‘current’ when refering to the logo, one response i had back was enquiring as to why we were changing it!

    Another tip i give people is to read what they type before they send, and ask themselves if they would find this acceptable to recieve or not… this of course is still subjective but can help with proof reading and typos!

    Alison Darrington

  6. thanks for the ideas
    thanks to all who have responded – some really useful ideas.

  7. Using “Reply all”
    I’d also recommend mentioning when it is and isn’t appropriate to use the “Reply all” function in emails. I’ve seen some shocking occasions when “Reply All” has been used to raise an issue that should have been handled by direct contact with the person involved (or their manager).

    Another point is how important the first two lines of an email can be – particularly when people have preview panels on their emails (which allows them to read the start of the email without actually opening it).

    Cate Maunsell-Terry

  8. Spell-check
    Telling people to be aware of using correct grammar and punctuation is fine, but if they are not very good at spelling etc, then checking their own e-mails will not improve the standard.
    I have always advocated turning on the “auto spell-check” function, where every e-mail is spell-checked when you click the “Send” button. This won’t get everything (eg. their/there), but will eliminate most of the obvious errors, and make e-mails more professional.

  9. e-mail ettiquette
    Hi Collette.
    There are lots of good ideas in the previous replies so i wont repeat them. One idea I had though was to ask the students what most annoyed them about the e-mails they received. I imagine that will bring up a number of bad practices which you can then discuss as a group. What do I hate, being cc’d when it is nothing to do with me, being c’d when it is to do with me! Using reply and including all the previous emails. Why not just summerise them for me as I wont be looking at them. A previous poster suggested using Mehrabian’s precentages without referring to him. I would steer clear of this as Mehrabian makes clear on his web site those percentages refer to liking not understanding.” Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking”

  10. text talk in emails…
    Hi Collette

    not sure if your still picking up answers to your question however i will add my thoughts!

    Its vital that email composers use correct grammar and language and not what is being commonly known as ‘TEXT Talk’ in other words how people would write an SMS message on their mobile phones.

    Too many times i have seem people writing in their emails “Hi m8, do u fncy mtn up 4 a d8 l8r this arvo? or r u bizy wiv uva peeps?”

    and that has been from work colleagues to work colleagues.. totally unprofessional, and a bad way of setting an example.. when training this out its probably a good idea to have a few different examples of emails with poor spelling, grammar, sentences, paragraphs etc.. and then have a few copies of what an email should look like!

    Hope this helps

    Rich Gillett

  11. E-Mail Training Tips
    Hi Colette

    Some of the points I put across and methods are:

    Ask them what e-mail is. You will get a few answers, but my stock answer is “an electronic version of snail mail”, ie not a substitute for conversation, but a method of getting a document to someone.

    When writing e-mails, imagine they are speaking to that person face-to-face. This can be done in pairs as a practical exercise.

    Get them to bring an e-mail they have recently sent and to dissect it – eg did they need to put all those people on as cc addressees? did they need to send the e-mail at all?

    Ask them how much time they think they spend reading e-mails when that annoying envelope pops up. Get them to reconfigure their mail properties and to only open Outlook at certain times of the day etc.

    Happy to send more info by e-mail if you wish.



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