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Email etiquette & how to win friends and influence people*

*Or at least not piss them off


When Dale Carnegie wrote his multi-million bestseller more than 80 years ago, I’m sure he couldn’t have imagined what the future would hold. But even in this digital age, his principles to win friends and influence people still can be applied to benefit both our professional and personal lives.

Take, for example, the business email.

Seemingly harmless enough, the fact is, for many of us emails make up a big part of our daily communication. And if you have bad “netiquette” your friends, clients, co-workers and staff will notice.

Poor email behaviour has the potential to damage your rep – be it personal or professional. So here are some basic etiquette tips, as well as a few guidelines adapted from Mr. Carnegie’s principles, to help ensure you’re not only making the right impression but also making friends . . . or keeping them at least.


8 Email etiquette essentials

Okay, let’s start with these basics to keep you looking like a pro.

  1. Have a clear, concise subject line and make it relevant to the email receiver.
  2. Use a professional address. “” may not make the best impression.
  3. Stick with a proper salutation. Hi/hello/good morning [name] will do the trick.
  4. Avoid “replying all” unless truly necessary, particularly with a big list of recipients.
  5. Reply to every email. And if someone sent a detailed email, don’t just give a one-word response.
  6. Feel free to say “no reply necessary” when applicable.
  7. Only use humour in appropriate situations. Know your audience.
  8. Proofread every message and recheck the recipient address. Take the time to get it right.


Carnegie principles to incorporate into your emails

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Take the right approach when writing, lest you be ill-received. Keep communication clear but don’t belabour problems or assign blame. State the necessary facts without showing emotion.

Give honest and sincere appreciation. Don’t just send emails when there’s an issue to be resolved, send them when there are activities to be celebrated or people to be acknowledged. That being said, don’t go overboard. Happy emails for every little thing – Excellent parking job today, Sue! – won’t carry much weight after a while.

Arouse in the other person an eager want. See things from the view of others. Write the email so that the recipient feels affected by it. Make it so the subject is mutually important. Ask for feedback, get them involved.

If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. If you’re writing to apologize for a mistake, just do it. Do it right away and don’t offer up excuses, that will rebuild trust and even garner empathy.

Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. Offer up and ask for suggestions rather than just telling people what to do. Often that leads to people arriving at the wanted conclusion and learning from their mistakes in a more positive and meaningful way.

Throw down a challenge. People like to excel and show their value. If you want to have people meet an objective, motivate them by giving them a challenge. Be positive, appreciative and appealing.


Need more assistance in writing an inoffensive and compelling email or business letter? We’re here to help! Visit our website at to find out about our writing services. And check out our blog for more tips on writing and content marketing.

Nancy Miller
Nancy Miller

Owner and editorial rockstar at Rock.Paper.Copy Writing Solutions

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