10 Hygiene Tips for Writing Better Emails

 Last Updated: August 19, 2016

 August 19, 2016


I observed that most people make blunders while writing emails. Also, most of the mistakes made are about basic hygiene an official email should carry.

Given below is a checklist, which would be handy for you before hitting the Send button next time: 

1. Zero spell errors

An email should contain absolutely zero spelling mistakes. 

In fact, if you are into business dev, customer acquisition support functions, spell errors significantly reduce the probability of you getting a reply. Many-a-times, this leads to wrong interpretation on receiver's part which leads to confusion. 

Moreover, shit happens most of the time, like this:

discovering a spelling mistake in an email happens mostly just after hitting the send buttonIf you face this too many times, you should solve for it.

Find help in automation. Most of the email clients provide spell-check support these days. If it's not there, maybe it's switched off. You can switch it On

StiIl, if you can't figure it out, a plugin like Grammarly can be a lifesaver.

Best method to rectify though is to take a print and proofread it thrice. You would be surprised at the anomalies you will find between what you think you wrote and what you read in hard copy of the same thing.

Take a hard-copy print of emails and read it to be doubly sure of what you're going to send

Another method can be to use a text-to-speech software which can read it out aloud for you, clearly spitting typos out. 

2. Thoughtful Formatting

Paragraphing and Indentation rules are the same for emails. Just like they are for any other piece of writing.

An effective email does not goof up on these rules.

It also shouts out loud of your professional sincerity and no-nonsense attitude.

3. Handle Subject

Subject is an important part of email and has to be handled with utmost care. You see, it's the subject which is the first thing people see before opening an email. So it makes an impression before what they read inside. 

There are certain cases governing whether to touch the subject at all:

  • When a discussion is going on in a thread. In this case, it's better not to change the subject. This is because a new subject creates a new thread, at least in threaded email clients. This results in people losing track of the issue, which gets spread on different threads. 
  • When subject does not reflect the discussion that's going on the mail chain, it's best to change it. Ideally, subject has to be relevant to the issue which is currently under discussion. But as a matter of fact, discussions move into different directions and digress. So subjects do start sounding irrelevant after some time. So this should be fixed proactively in the benefit of everyone.
  • While starting a new topic, keep the subject relevant and action-oriented (obviously).

4. Think Before Reply-All

Before hitting Reply-all to compose your message, please think. Just be absolutely sure that Reply won't make the cut.

Reply-all-ing is a major reason of huge email volume for people, resulting in frustration and productivity loss worldwide. 

For messages like 'Ok', 'Thank You', 'Happy Birthday' etc., Reply should be preferred over Reply-all hands down.

In cases where many people need to remain updated of an issue and kept on a same page, it's better to use Reply-all.

Use your best judgement and maintain a balance. Goal should be to cut disturbance, while maintaining necessary flow of information.

5. Check Sharing

Before sending, just check the people tagged in To and cc fields. Ask yourself: are all these people really need to be informed of this update? Then remove those who aren't. 

Another great option here is to move the people who are not required to bcc. This would mean that if someone else uses a Reply-all on your email, bcc people will automatically get removed. Moreover, this is a nice way to tell the people you intend to remove that they are removed. If they want to remain included, let them use Reply-all on your mail and tell that explicitly. Also, don't forget to mention in your email that you have made this change, at the beginning or end of it, like this:

[Moving Ajay and Maria to bcc]

6. Handle URLs

Most of the emails contain links and it is important that they be handled in a civilized way.

Long URLs tend to lose clickability in-between and go broken when clicked. Best practice is to shorten them first. You can use any available service for the purpose. This provides an added advantage of tracking, in case you need to know whether somebody has clicked or at what time they clicked.

Second method is to put them as hyperlinks behind text ← Just like this! This method is handy when shortening of URLs makes it lose context i.e., when it's important that people be in congnizance of where they are being redirected to. Every email client has an option of inserting such hyperlinks denoted by icons like 🔗

7. Handle Files

Not attaching files on emails and sharing links to files is a good idea. It saves the effort of making clumsy downloads. Also, now files need not be attached in every consecutive email as the link to files sticks in email history. But there are a few things to note.

Share URLs of Gdrive / Dropbox, but do insert a necessary screenshot of file in the email. This is because people reading it on phone might not be able to view the file on cloud. Screenshot gives them a snapshot of file's content. 

If you are going the attachment way, see if proper files are attached. Make sure you don't miss an attachment from previous email or share a wrong file. Note that forwarding attaches files from previous email by default (most of the time), but Reply-all or Reply does not. 

Check the files thoroughly before attaching / linking. Emails are like bullets - once shot, can't be taken back.

8. Handle Email History

Every email has an associated email history. Before sending your email, it's better to have a look at that.

Many email clients show this history upfront, while Gmail hides it behind this icon:

gmail email history is hidden behind this icon

Many-a-times, unwanted or unintended emails remain into your email history which might be a reason for embarrassment later. So better to read the complete email history each time you send an email and trim the unwanted parts.

Another point to note is that people can understand issues by reading the email history. But this happens only to a certain extent - till around 3-4 emails. If the issue requires the other person to read more than 3 emails lying in history, it's better to describe the issue in your email that you are going to send. 

9. Avoid these Cases

If possible, avoid 'Adding John' emails or '+ Maria' emails - Reply-all's done just to include people in email chains.

dont disturb all the people in cc just to include more people in email chains

If it's absolutely necessary, don't forget to add some more information to make it valuable so that it does not look like waste or a distraction to everyone.

10. Avoid this Language

shortcut language being used in an email: a definite no-no

SMS lingo, more than one dots or exclamation marks in continuation, SPAM language. Such things don't look professional or properly thought-out.

Though how this is perceived also depends on your organization's culture. But in a way, emails seem to have a culture of their own. This culture is more universal and inter-companies, if not intra-company. So it is should anyhow be followed.

Even in smartphones, there's this helper dictionary / autocorrect. So the excuse of cutting the words short to save time or typing effort doesn't exactly sound good enough.


this line is used to separate text from text


What do you think about this? Noticed some more things from unhygienic emails? Mention them in comments.

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