Do’s and don’ts for effective emails

Email is the most common form of communication in the business world, so getting it right matters. To be effective, you must accurately convey the message and tone you intended. Otherwise, you risk confusing or offending your recipients, wasting people’s time with unnecessary back and forth, and possibly projecting yourself as less capable or unprofessional.

Follow these tips to avoid misunderstandings, etiquette blunders, and embarrassing mistakes.

  1. Define your goal: While this may seem obvious (to communicate with someone else, duh…), there are different reasons for sending an email. Knowing your goal will help you frame your email effectively. Are you:
    • Sharing information? Write clearly and speak directly. Include links or attachments for those who want to dive in deeper, keeping your email to a reasonable length.
    • Trying to build support for your idea? Write with enthusiastic language and be sure to provide sufficient facts/rationale, without disparaging anyone else’s idea.
    • Asking a question? Pose your query clearly, but don’t be too blunt. If applicable, be sure to start by thanking the person for the information they have provided already and explain you have some follow-up questions to clarify your understanding.
    • Looking for input or ideas? Write with warm, inviting language and make it clear that all ideas are welcome. When you receive replies, don’t respond negatively or else others who haven’t replied yet may be afraid to add their own ideas to the mix.
  2. Choose the right recipients: People often overuse the cc: feature on emails. Your colleagues are busy and would likely appreciate not having to sift through emails that aren’t directly related to them. Decide who needs to receive your email and be thoughtful about who is copied on it.
  3. Write a clear subject line: Your recipients probably receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails a day. Make sure your subject line provides a clear idea of what your email is about and why it should be read. Avoid replying to an unrelated email with your message — if the existing subject line doesn’t accurately describe what you’re writing about, start a new email. Also consider including the desired action in your subject line, such as:
    • For your review: XYZ proposal attached
    • Reminder about Friday’s team meeting: Updated agenda attached
    • Information needed: Questions about XYZ
    • Ideas wanted: Looking for potential solutions to XYZ situation
  4. Start with an appropriate greeting: It’s best not to dive right into the content without greeting your recipient(s). If you’re cc’ing a large group but directing your email to one or two people specifically, including their names in the greeting makes it clear who should reply. Depending on who you’re writing to and your relationship with them, choose one of the following types of greetings:
    • Dear [Name],
    • Good morning/afternoon [Name],
    • Hi [Name or Team],
    • Hey!
    • Thanks for your [input/help/reply/etc.]!
  5. Explain the reason for your email: Get into the “why” right away, saving people the trouble of having to guess what the email is all about. If you can make it clear why recipients should pay attention to your email, they’ll be more likely to read it.
  6. Be concise: According to various sources, employees spend around two and a half hours a day reading and responding to work emails. That means the people who receive your email are already stretched for time and want to get through your email as quickly as possible. So get to the point and avoid wordiness.
  7. Pay attention to formatting: It’s not just what you say that matters, but how your email appears visually. Using bullets instead of multiple paragraphs makes emails easier to scan quickly. And applying bold, highlight, or even color coding will ensure the right points stand out. However, use all caps with caution — it may come across as shouting or reprimanding.
  8. Know when not to email: Sometimes, a phone call or meeting is more effective and efficient than writing a long email or continuing an extended game of email Ping-Pong. So, keep in mind that in certain situations, the most effective email may be no email at all!
“Minutes spent daily checking emails in the U.S. 2016 to 2021, by type” statista (, September 15, 2022
“How To Stop Wasting 2.5 Hours On Email Every Day,” Annabel Acton, Forbes (, July 13, 2017
“How to Write an Effective Email: 14 Pro Email Writing Tips,” David Fallarme, HubSpot (https://blog.hubspot/com/marketing/email-writing-for-international-teams), May 17, 2023