Are your emails getting read?

Email is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is it has allowed us to communicate quicker and more conveniently. It also allows us to have a paper trail of our communications.

However, email is easily abused and misused. We are all inundated with hundreds of emails every day, so it’s important our emails reach the right people at the right time with the right message and in the right manner. Here are some tips for communicating more effectively by email.

Think through who really needs to receive the correspondance. Only include people who need the information, can answer a question or are making a decision on the information.

Ask yourself if email is the best medium for communicating your message. With so many emails vying for our attention it might be more expeditious to call the recipient or to stop by their office. If the message is complicated or lengthy, confidential, or has many questions, an in-person or phone call conversation would be better. Additionally, when building relationships with clients or customers, a phone call is much better unless you know they prefer email.

Put multiple email addresses in the “To” field ONLY if it’s a small group, about six or less, AND the recipients know each other AND there are no privacy issues by sharing their email addresses with each other. If you’re sending an email to a large group always put the email addresses in the “BCC” field. That way the header of the email is not cluttered with email addresses, the recipients remain private and the recipients cannot respond to the group.

If you are a healthcare provider, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents you from releasing any patient information to others including their email addresses. The doctor’s office that put the email addresses in the “To” field rather than the “BCC” field was in violation of this.

Be sure your subject line conveys what the email is about. If the email has been forwarded or the topic has changed change the subject line to reflect the new content.

Avoid lengthy conversations on email. If you have to go back and forth more than three times stop and pick up the phone or meet in-person. This is where email can become a waste of time. Having a conversation with someone can usually solve an issue much faster than sending multiple emails back and forth.

Keep your emails short and to the point. Most people scan emails and don’t read every word. Make it easy for them to get the information you’re trying to convey. Ask yourself, what do I want the recipient to do? It should be one of the following; act, answer, approve or acknowledge. State in the beginning of the email the action you’re requesting of the recipient. For instance; “Please review the attached document and respond with any changes or additions by February 12.”

Lastly, make your emails readable. I’m a big fan of using bullet points. They make the content easier to read and absorb. They also force you to be more concise.

What email tips would you add? Do you have an email pet peeve? Have you ever made an email mistake you cringe thinking about?


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. LauraC on February 15, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Some good pointers in there. I try and keep my emails short, subject lines relevant and send only to the relevant people. That and I use the phone a lot.

  2. 3 Things Getting on my Nerves This Week on May 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

    […] how to use email. Here’s a great article from my friend Arden Clise at Clise Etiquette on Email Etiquette. Bookmark this […]

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