Email dos and don’ts

Email dos and don’ts

Waking up to a flooded inbox is the new normal in today’s remote working scenario

Representative image. Credit: Getty.

Welcome to another edition of English that works: developing communication skills for everyday interactions by the British Council. We would love to hear your feedback on our articles, so do keep your emails coming! This week’s focus is effective emails. Don’t forget to make the most of this series by attempting the tasks assigned and recording all your learning

Waking up to a flooded inbox is the new normal in today’s remote working scenario. Well written, succinct emails promote a positive impression of you, now more than ever when they are one of the primary modes of communication.  Here is my quick-fix list with some dos and don’ts for effective emails. Can you add to this?


It’s a good idea to check you've got the right name in the 'To' box so that your email goes to the relevant people. CC or ‘carbon copy’ is for anyone you want to keep in the loop but are not addressing directly in the email. Include only those people who really need to read it. Additionally, giving a thought to whether an email needs ‘reply all’ always works for me.

Short emails sometimes sound rude and people won't read very long emails. It’s best to keep emails short, but remember to be polite and friendly, too.

Proofread your emails thoroughly before you click on the ‘send’ icon. One idea is to run a spelling and grammar check on your email. For very important emails, you could also try asking a colleague to read through your draft before you send it off.


This may sound obvious, but make sure you don't forget to add any necessary attachments. In my experience, attaching the file I want to send beforehand works well. That way, I won’t forget to attach it!

One of the most important things is to not use the caps lock key inappropriately. Writing in capitals is the online equivalent of shouting. You may come across as rude, so it helps to refrain from using it, even if you really do want to shout at someone!

In this article I’ve used the language function of ‘giving advice’. These phrases have been highlighted in bold. Look at these phrases and see if you can find expressions with similar structures.

Did you notice that most of the expressions above use ‘to + the main verb’? For example, ‘It’s a good idea to check you’ve got the right name’. Which other phrases above can you find using this structure? 

Notice that some phrases are used a little differently. For example, ‘You could also try asking a colleague’ is usually followed by an -ing verb. What other patterns can you find? 

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