Guest post by Arden Clise

I hate to admit it, but I remember when communicating via email first became a reality. It was back in the dark ages of DOS computers. Remember those? Well, email has come a long way since then. What hasn’t changed though is the abuse and misuse of email.

Avoiding email mistakes is even more important for people who are client-facing, such as sales and marketing professionals, because not only is your reputation at stake so is your company’s. Case in point – a doctor’s office sent an email to all of their patients with the email addresses in the “To:” field. This meant her patients could see who all her patients were and had access to their email addresses. Not only is this an etiquette mistake, it was also a HIPAA violation. Oops!

To top it off, a disgruntled patient hit “Reply All” and shared his scorn for the doctor with every one of her patients. What do you think that did for the doctor’s reputation? And, I wonder if the employee who made that mistake is still employed.

Here are a few email tips to help you stay out of hot water and convey professionalism.

Have a clear subject line. Your subject line should allow the reader to understand exactly what the email is about without having to open it. Never leave the subject line blank. That’s like having a book cover with no title. Also, if you forward a forwarded email and you are talking about something different from the original subject, change the subject line to reflect that.

Use greeting and closings. Don’t let the convenience and casualness of email make you forget your manners. Always start an email with a greeting – “Dear”, “Hello”, “Hi” – and a closing – “Sincerely”, “Best regards”, “Warmly”, etc.

Keep your emails brief and to the point. People get hundreds of emails every day. If you want your email to get read keep it succinct. If you have something very short to communicate put it in the subject line and add “EOM” for “End of Message” at the end. Here’s an example: “See you at Noon at Chandlers. EOM.”

When in doubt, use BCC. Don’t make the same mistake the doctor’s office did. If you are sending an email to many people put the email addresses in the “BCC” field. Not only does it look more professional, people can’t see or email others on the list.

Make it clear what action you’re requesting. Often the request is lost in the body of the email, therefore, state in the first sentence what you want someone to do or the reason for sending the email. Try to put your information in bullet points so that it’s easier to read.

Include a signature line with your name, company and contact information. People need to know who you are and how to reach you. Also, skip the personal quotes after your signature, especially if they are religious, political or trite.

Respond within 24 hours. Even if you don’t have an answer for someone, send an email explaining you will get back to that person with an answer by X date.

Use your out of office auto responder when away for more than a day. Avoid having people wonder why you haven’t returned their emails. Include when you are returning and an alternate contact in the out of office message, especially if clients are dependent on you for information.

Slow down. Often we are in such a rush to communicate and send off an email that we make mistakes. Slow down and treat email like a business letter. Take time to proof the email to avoid typos and grammatical errors.

Arden Clise, President of Clise Etiquette, is a business etiquette consultant and columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. She specializes in business etiquette, customer service, social media etiquette, communication styles and executive presence consulting and coaching. Learn more about Clise Etiquette at, or read more from Arden at