Skip Nav
Win Halloween With These 69 Movie-Inspired Couples Costume Ideas
Must Haves
These 15 Sexy New Reads Will Make For a Sizzling September
I Tried This Warming Edible Massage Oil, and It Literally Heated Things Up in the Best Way

Proper E-Mail Etiquette

Dear Sugar
I have a couple of questions about the proper rules of e-mail. I am 37 and have really just started to embrace my computer after being a stay at home mom with four young kids. I've never really had the time to use it, but now that I am working part time, there are definitely a few things I am unsure of.

For example, is it impolite not to respond to every message that I get? Also, is it acceptable to forward e-mails? Lastly, it seems like everyone is so short with each other over e-mail. It's really hard to tell sometimes when/if someone is being rude. Is my perception correct, or is this just the new way to write? Out Dated Daisy

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Out Dated Daisy
These are excellent questions for those of us at any age. We all use computers, and it's never too late to remind ourselves of the proper ways to conduct our behavior...even if it is via e-mail. Here are my answers to your questions.

No, you definitely do not have to respond to each and every e-mail that you get. Think of e-mail the same way you think of getting a phone message or a letter in the mail. You have the right to pick and choose the messages you deem important. However, it is quite simple to send a note of courtesy. So when in doubt, send a short, polite note back.

Forwarding e-mails is dangerous. If something was sent just to you, then it was meant just for you. Would you ever pass around a personal handwritten letter? It would feel very wrong, and that is because it's a betrayal. Now, there are of course exceptions. Group schedules, links, funny stories/jokes etc... are all OK to send around. This is just the kind of thing that makes e-mail an easy and wonderful asset to our lives.

Oftentimes, it does seem like everyone is short on e-mail. People tend to rush offline and you can hide behind your computer and say things that you wouldn't necessarily say face to face. Some helpful advice is to read the message before you send it. Many times, people don't even bother to check what they are sending and they become embarrassed and regret the message later on. Also, be careful with humor and sarcasm. It can be misinterpreted since tone and fluctuation is difficult to transmit online. Good luck.

Join The Conversation
la_clique la_clique 10 years
I use smileys at work sometimes, it is so easy to sound harsh or abrupt in an email or text, esp with my smartass attitude, so I find that the :) or ;) softens the blow. Not with everyone, of course, but longtime customers, etc...I'm in advertising sales, so I think the standards are a bit more casual. And I DETEST the all caps, people. People send me ad copy, all caps and it just makes me MAD! :EVIL:
bluejeanie bluejeanie 10 years
i hate capital letters. nobody i know even uses them unless they're EMPHASIZING THEIR POINT. hehe, capital letters are so passe.
bfly1133 bfly1133 10 years
I don't know if I agree with the no :) in business emails. It depends on the situation, your profession, and a few other items. I certainly don't use them with everyone, but some of my clients appreciate the more personal touches like that. I wholeheartedly agree with Dear Sugar on this one!
VJ626 VJ626 10 years
Thank you for the capital letter's sooo distracting to read a note or a whole letter LIKE THIS!
tra tra 10 years
If emailing for business....never use smiley faces in emails, it's just not professional.
Cheena Cheena 10 years
I am terrible when it comes to email responses, it usually is short and sweet. I guess it really depends on the recipient. Your close friends and family well, I would do like a handwritten letter or pen pal type or writing, but to like people that you have met online, well be careful because you really don't know all that much about them. I think short quick notes and acknowledgements are fine. If anything, maybe a chat or instant message thing maybe good once and a while. If you are into that sort of thing. I know that you recently got into the whole computer thing, but of course you said you have 4 kids and I do believe that no one thinks that you just sit at your computer all day waiting to respond to their emails. Have fun with your new endeavor and feel free to be yourself on line!! Oh and Yes, I agree with WhiplashGirlchild, typing in all caps does have the meaning that you are yelling. That one is a big no no if you don't really mean it...
flutterpie flutterpie 10 years
im in a long distance relationship and my boyfriend and i are constantly instant messaging and emailing, half of our fights are because we thought the other was being rude or mean.
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 10 years
I agree, sometimes it's hard to not seem really abrupt. You can always soften things with a smiley. Here's a tip, since you're a newbie: DON'T TYPE IN ALL CAPS. IT LOOKS LIKE YELLING.
Surprising TV Show Set Details
European Cities to Visit in Your 30s
Why You Shouldn't Mom-Shame
Phoebe Buffay Friends Style
From Our Partners
Latest Love
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds