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Email Etiquette

Updated on December 29, 2009

Email Etiquette for the Pre-Electronic Generations

Whether you’re heading back into the workplace, picking up an extra job, or updating your office skills, if you weren’t born and raised texting and emailing, this article is for you. If you’ve finally gotten yourself online, emailing the grandkids and doing a little online shopping, this will help you too.

These 3 main points are really just demonstrating a lack of basic grammar skills. You learned them correctly as a child. But somehow they seem to have gotten misplaced when it comes to emailing.


Typing in all caps is yelling. If you can’t see the screen, get glasses. If you think it’s easier, get un-lazy. Many people won’t even read your email if it is in all caps. Email etiquette is that when you type in all caps, everyone considers it rude and unprofessional.

2 - Multiple Question Marks and Exclamation Points

It’s exactly as you learned it in grammar school. One question mark denotes a question. One exclamation point denotes an interjection. Two exclamation points denotes a fierce interjection. One question mark and one exclamation point together is an extremely emotional question. That’s all the combinations that exist.

If you use three, four, or more exclamation points thinking it relays extreme anger or emotion, it doesn’t. It relays a lack of the most basic second grade level grammar. In an email, especially a professional one, use basic common sense on this.

Writing an email to the customer service department of an online store, or to your doctor, or to your congressman, is considered a professional type of email. Grammar rules exist for a reason, especially the ones people think they should break to relay emotion.

3 - Trying to EMPHASIZE Certain Inflections

Not only is it DIFFICULT to read, it’s also a grammatical atrocity. It is EXHAUSTING to read ANYTHING that tries to demonstrate such a HUGE swing in inflection CONSTANTLY. You are NOT coming across clearer by capitalizing certain words that you THINK will emphasize your tone. You do NOT sound like an emotionally STABLE person when you write like THIS. You sound like an EXTREME and EMOTIONAL person with an inability to communicate as a normally functioning person would.

Although there is a difference between writing an entire chat conversation or email in that way, and in emphasizing one or two words in an entire article, it’s still grammatically incorrect. Poetic license aside, in a professional email this misguided attempt at showing emotion is usually interpreted as insulting. The recipient reading your words might think you’re assuming they have no clue how to read your inflection, so you’ve interpreted it in this sarcastic way as you would with a child or an idiot.


At the core of these three major email errors is emotion. Showing emotion you didn’t mean to, or trying to show emotion that you assume is lacking in the digital age.

Try to think of it this way: emailing is letter writing. Remember letter writing? Remember when you wrote to your grandparents about your summer vacation? You used your good stationary, and your best penmanship, and you observed all the rules of grammar you were learning in school. Well this is no different.

Additionally, when you are exercising any kind of professionalism, the less emotion you can relay the better you are perceived. Your opinion loses credibility when it becomes obvious you are so emotionally charged that you can not possibly be thinking clearly.

Here’s two examples. If you were the recipient, which one would you consider more viable? Which customer’s relationship do you want to nurture for future business?

Example 1:
Dear Customer Service,
I’m in receipt of product number #34, The Coffee Maker, which I purchased on 12/1 for $50.00 I would like to speak with someone about this purchase as it isn’t what I expected it to be. In the product description it states that coffee is made quickly, and that the warmer keeps coffee hot. My experience has been that neither of these are true. I would like to return or exchange this item. If someone could email me back to assist me I’d appreciate it. Thank you.

Example 2:
You’re cofee maker SUCKS!!!! You CLAIM it makes coffee FAST, but it does NOT!!! It takes forever and the coffee is COLD!!! How do yo expect too get away with this????? Someone there NEEDS to call me IMMEDIATELY!!!!

Final Tip: Cool Down

You’ve heard the jokes about drunk emailing. Well consider that charged emotions have a similar effect.

At an office workplace years ago, someone gave me a wonderful tip: imagine that every email you send is going to the president of the company. Imagine that the entire legal department, and your boss’s boss’s boss are being CC’ed on this.

Use spell check. There is no rush. Read. Reread. Think before hitting send. Cool down and write the email tomorrow or next week. Ask a coworker to proofread it. Do whatever you need to do, to be extremely comfortable with the idea that the most important people in the company or in your life will see this email that you wrote.

Don’t fool yourself by pretending you don’t care what people think. You do, or you wouldn’t be so emotional in your writing. You want to be perceived as clear thinking, and valid. That’s not going to happen if you don’t think before you send. You do not want to be perceived as emotionally unstable, or sloppy and uneducated. All caps, emotional and incorrect punctuation, and inflection capitalizing are all guaranteed ways to ruin your email integrity.

This article

was written by Veronica for Hubpages.

If you are reading it anyplace else, it has been stolen.

All text is original content by Veronica. All photos are used with permission. All videos are courtesy of Youtube.

The Office, UK, Email


Submit a Comment

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    You're right.

  • profile image

    SBN 7 years ago

    While I appreciate and agree with the message in this article, I'd like to point out a minor grammatical error in the Example 1 customer email above. The phrase, "My experience has been that neither of these are true" should really be "My experience has been that neither of these is true"

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 8 years ago from NY

    walter c dolan, retired teacher ip nocal dialup grass valley CA

  • Sally's Trove profile image

    Sherri 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

    People learn by example, so when newbs to email receive email messages containing these monstrosities, they think it's OK to follow suit.

    There's a great little book out there called "You Send Me: Getting It Right When You Write Online". Full of good advice and good humor, it should be on everyone's writing reference shelf and makes a perfect gift for anyone new to email.

    I agree with KeithTax: "Well said."

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 8 years ago from NY

    Thanks very much KeithTax! I appreciate that!

  • KeithTax profile image

    Keith Schroeder 8 years ago from Wisconsin

    What a fantastic article. This should be "must" reading in every office. I am forwarding this hub to all my staff. Well said.