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Email Etiquette

By James M. Shaker

The easy and instantaneous nature of email makes it easy to forget the permanent nature of these communications. But when a dispute arises, emails are often the first evidence to which both parties turn. Following email etiquette reduces the chance that e-discovery will be embarrassing or harmful to your case.

  • 1. Use the same care and tone for a business email as you would for a business letter.
  • 2. Be courteous. Avoid curse words, all capital letters, !!! or ???.
  • 3. Make a practice of double-checking the To:, CC: and BCC: fields before pressing send. Consider filling in these fields after you drafted the email to avoid accidentally pressing “send” before the email is complete. Be careful with “Reply All.”
  • 4. Include a brief subject line that explains the email’s content and purpose.
  • 5. Try to keep your emails to one subject each. For a new subject, start a new message.
  • 6. Use a signature line that includes your contact information.
  • 7. Use complete sentences that would be understandable to a third party. Avoid acronyms. While the meaning of partially-expressed thoughts or abbreviations may be clear to you now, these could be misinterpreted by an opposing party or attorney years later, without context.
  • 8. Copying an attorney on an email does not automatically make the email subject to attorney-client privilege.
  • 9. Do not forward chain emails, especially regarding political or controversial issues.

James M. Shaker is a Member in Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC’s Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor Group. For more information, please contact Jim at 206.654.2261/ or visit

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