Email Etiquette 101: Just How Many Exclamation Points Is Too Many?!!!

If you've ever caught yourself wondering what people did in offices before the advent of the internet, you're not alone. 

They hung out by water coolers. They answered phone calls. And, if we are to take away anything from TV, they drank. And though boozy martini lunches may be a thing of the past, etiquette isn't.

Email etiquette has taken the place of phone Ps and Qs, but there are still some rules to follow (before you end up embroiled in an email scandal a la Sony). You don't need to censor yourself, but unlike a phone call, emails (and diamonds), are forever. 


We're not talking about the band. We're talking about the need to make sure everyone knows you're nice--sooo nice--via email. 

Tone is hard to judge, and email is a brilliant way to miscommunicate how you feel and misinterpret what others mean as well. So we seem to have gone the way of over-intoning. How many of you have started off an email with the following: "Hi [insert name here]! It's so nice to e-meet you!!" It's kind of the equivalent of hugging someone in a meeting. Which, isn't standard biz practice.

Your first email should feel like a strong, on-point handshake, not a slumber party hug. 

We are all guilty of it, but it might be time to take it down a notch. It's not just women who are guilty of the over-exclamation. Men have fallen into the exclamation trap as well. 

If you want to go all X and O crazy after that... you have that email love fest. 


We've all had horrible bosses. We've also all been on the receiving end of some email vitriol from an angry client or colleague. The kind of email that either makes your heart race or your eyes roll. (The kind of email that can lead to tears on the job.) Before you respond, take a minute. Literally, count to 60. Some people say an hour, but that's too long, and gives that email too much room to fester. Here are a few good phrases, that show you're willing to compromise without shouldering all of the blame. (Note: if you actually are in the wrong, fess up, move on, and do better.) 

"Let's figure out how we can come to an understanding." 

"Let's work together to solve this." 

"I have some ideas as to how we can make this better."

Phrases like "I'm sorry you feel that way," or any kind of personal attack, come off condescending, rude, and unprofessional. What you're trying to do is put out a fire, not set the office ablaze. The fastest way to take the oxygen out of a fight is to not point fingers and keep it BIFF (Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm).  

And remember, being diplomatic in the face of drama is a skill. Hone it and own it just like any other professional trait.   


You're sitting there. Refreshing your inbox. Your boss down your throat, wondering where what you've promised is, but you don't have it-- because you're waiting on someone else. This is the simplest, easiest way to email elbow. 

"Hi X-- Checking in on the below. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help expedite this process. We are really looking forward to working with you." 

Simple. Brief. Not annoying. You want it to convey a sense of friendly urgency-- because most of the time, that's the feeling you have.

If you get ignored again, and it happens, the third follow-up should put more of the responsibility on the recipient. 

"Hi X-- Please let us know if you are still interested in (insert opportunity here). This could be a great opportunity for both of us." 

If they don't respond, there's a fairly decent chance they aren't interested, and at that point you need to head back into the kitchen and whip up something else, and make it work. 



There is a disconnect between generations. Baby boomers and Gen Xers who think a phone call is better than an email. They aren't wrong. Sometimes it's a whole lot easier to jump on a conference call, suss out details, get rid of tonal confusion, and charge full steam ahead. 

But we live in an email-centric world and learning how to craft a good one is key to business strategy. So here are five quick tips to making your email the blingiest it can be.  

1. Don't mass email. Make it professional but personal. 

2. Proofread. Especially how to spell the recipient's name. If you mess up before they even get to the body of the email, their entire reading will be colored by the initial whoops. 

3. Elevator pitch your email. Condense it. People like email because it's fast. If you need to delve into deeper convo after the initial email, that's fine. Don't start out that way. 

4. If you are sending business emails from your phone remove the auto signature. "Sent from my iPhone" is sloppy. 

5. Don't be afraid to be yourself. To a degree, email removes personality. You don't have to be a robot to be professional, and chances are, you'll never stick out, get ahead, make moves, if you're acting like one.