The 10 commandments of writing emails

By Ronald Amaya


I love text messages but I am afraid the cell phone revolution is killing the art of emails. Yes, I call it an art with good reason. Emailing should be done with care and lots of attention. That doesn’t hold only for official emails but even for personal emails. Here are the ten commandments of emailing that we should never forget to remember when writing emails.

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1. Thou shall always have a subject
You are writing an email- not a text message on your phone. Most people glance at the subject lines of unread emails and only open the ones that look interesting. If you forget the subject line, your email might never be read. Worse still, emails that have no subject line might easily be misconstrued for spam.


2. Thou shall use a salutation and a signature

Avoid the hit and run technique – always have a salutation much the same way you do when you are writing a letter. The salutation may be official like “dear sir” or it might just be a “hi there” for a friendly email. A salutation is a way of telling your recipient that you care and as the saying goes, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s also important to have a signature to append to your emails. The signature gives your recipients your contact details and your position in the company.

3. Thou shall not use ALL CAPS

I recently received an email from a friend that was typed in CAPITAL LETTERS. It’s like the guy was trying to scream at me. Writing in all caps achieves the same goal as using font color red. You don’t want your recipient getting the feeling that you are shouting at him/ her.

4. Thou shall be succinct

Few people enjoy reading emails. So don’t waste their time with unnecessary stuff. If you are alerting some friends about a news item on CNN that is of interest, don’t give the details. Just tell them of it and provide a link. The bottom line; be brief or the email will never be read.

5. Thou shall be courteous

Even if you don’t like the person you are writing to, always remember, a little courtesy goes a long way. Never use abusive language in your emails. Remember the forward button? The email could end up in the inbox of someone you would wish never read it. The rule of thumb is, it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.

6. Thou shall avoid unnecessary jokes

It’s good to be friendly in your emails but you should avoid unnecessary jokes. Remember, meanings are often in people more than in words and what you may consider funny might be considered inappropriate by someone else.

7. Thou shall avoid forwarding emails to the wrong persons

Before you hit the forward button, always double check the “send to” field to ensure you know who you are sending the email to. Email applications like outlook and Gmail often auto fill the form with email addresses based on your history. Cross check to ensure the auto filled address is the correct one before you hit send.

8. Thou shall avoid excessive formatting

Ok. I know there is the WYSIWYG editor but it doesn’t mean you have to try everything on it. Just keep your email clean and crisp. Unless it is absolutely necessary to format your emails with 2 or 3 colors, just use the default settings.

9. Thou shall use BCC and CC appropriately

When you write to Mary and BCC Jane, Mary will get the email without knowing that Jane did. When you write to Mary and CC Jane and Betty, all the recipients will see who else received the email. Make sure you know who to BCC and who to CC before you hit the send button.

10. Thou shall always reply your emails

Unless it’s a group email, it is rude to read an email that needs a reply and you just ignore it. A reply is an acknowledgement that you received the email, and that you understood the contents. Sometimes, all you need to say is thank you.


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