With fax machines having gone the way of the dodo, and the postal service sneeringly dismissed as ‘snail mail’, the majority of business correspondence these days is carried out via email.

Thanks to the finger-fast nature of the electronic medium, it’s easy to forget that the same care should be paid to electronic communications as to traditional letters.

The old adage ‘it takes years to find a client but only moments to lose them’ is perfectly true. Your business might take time and trouble to nurture a professional image, but you’re only ever one hastily-hit ‘send’ away from exposing your metaphoric bum to the world.

That’s right – one badly-spelled, slang-filled or curt missive is all it can take to make a client ‘seek out alternative arrangements’ – translation: giving one of your rivals a ring.

As business copywriters extraordinaire, the team at Wordsworks can help you fine-tune the art of electronic correspondence. Here, we present our very own Guide to Email Etiquette.


  • Unless you know a client well, formal greetings and sign-offs are still important. It’s ‘Dear’ and ‘Yours sincerely’ all the way…
  • Unless your email is demonstrably secure, be careful about enclosing confidential client information in a message – they’re unlikely to appreciate it.
  • Hold fire with those emoticons. They’re fine for friends, but your customers don’t want to see smiley or winky faces every few lines, unless you’ve established a certain repartee.
  • Similarly, avoid jargon and slang – the former is too elitist and the latter is too casual – both are supremely annoying.
  • Yes, the normal rules of writing still apply – by which we mean sentences, paragraphs, capitalisation, punctuation and grammar. And apostrophes. Especially apostrophes. If in doubt, look it up.
  • Ask for permission in advance to send a large attachment – your client won’t be happy if you clog his or her inbox with several megabytes’ worth of jpegs, causing their other emails to bounce back to senders.
  • If your email system has a ‘flag as high priority’ option, don’t abuse it. Your client will be seriously dischuffed if he or she tears themselves away from an important task to read your email, only to find it’s a trivial matter.
  • Make sure your email has an automatic ‘signature’ at the bottom stating your other forms of contact. This way the recipient can quickly pick up the phone if necessary to clarity a detail.
  • It’s best to avoid sending an email if you’re annoyed or frustrated with a client. At least wait the time it would have taken you in the old days to walk to the postbox (and calm down) before pressing ‘send’. Remember, your emails can haunt you forever. Rant in haste, repent at leisure…
  • Don’t over-use exclamation points (if you must use them at all). You’re just going to look like a teenager on Facebook!!!!!!!!!


Armed with these tips, you and your staff can merrily communicate with clients safe in the knowledge you’re doing more good than harm.