10 rules of email etiquette in a creative industry

May 16th 2015 / Anna Hunter


To kiss or not to kiss? To be formal or chatty? When should an email really be a meeting instead? We solve your dilemmas and give you a few digital Dos and Don'ts…

According to research by O2, the average UK worker sends 4118 emails a year, with 59% of people using email more than any other form of communication at work. Given that we spend 288 hours (equivalent to 36 days) a year writing emails, it pays to nail composing them.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a typo-heavy, socially awkward email (even if it was only sent to us accidently - another gaffe to avoid), and the fact that O2’s research shows that the average employee fields around 6,225 emails a year makes it all the more vital to know what works, and what doesn’t.

To ensure that your email finds favour with creative types, and doesn’t end up in the Spam filter or trash can, heed media career coach Joanne Mallon’s email commandments…

1. Be friendly, but not over familiar. Don’t pretend to care about somebody’s life or children when you don’t. If you want to make things more genuine, look at their blog or Twitter feed to see what they’ve been up to lately so you can write a more authentic response.

2. Note how a person refers to themselves and do the same, as this is clearly what they prefer and it will help to build rapport. So no shortening Michael to Mike or Josephine to Jo unless the person does it already.

3. No text speak in a professional email. Avoid calling people ‘hun’ and only add kisses on the end if you genuinely would kiss them in real life.

4. Always check your spelling and grammar. If details like that are sloppy then people will assume that the rest of your work is too.

5. Make the most of your email signature. This can be good for a subtle bit of promotion, perhaps a link to your website or Twitter feed.

6. Remember that an email is only as confidential as a postcard, and could potentially be shared with anyone. If you have more confidential matters to discuss, use the phone.

7. On the subject of phone calls, if you agree a work contract on the phone, follow up with an email so you’re both clear on what’s been agreed and you have it in writing.

8. Be aware of how to use ‘CC’ and ‘BCC’ and the difference between them.

9. If someone doesn’t reply to your email, that generally means a ‘no’, though it could also mean that they didn’t receive it. Don’t be afraid to follow up with another email or a phone call. If you call someone and they are curt with you on the phone, don’t take it personally. You may have caught them at a bad time.

10. If you do call, get straight to the point quickly and without pointless questions about how their day is going.

Adhere to Joanne’s tips and it’s unlikely that you’ll go wrong, but we had an informal office conference on this matter and here are a few email issues that get our goat, or on the flip side, make us press that little star button...


Turn off that pinging sound. It probably stresses you out, and it’s driving us CRAZY.

Make your subject line seductive and to the point, and definitely don’t leave it empty.

Use bullet points to get your point across. Acres of text make us switch off.

Make it personal where possible. We’ll love receiving it and be grateful for your effort and attention, and you’re far more likely to receive a reply. Win win.

Invite us to an event, come to see us or suggest a quick coffee sometime. Face to face communication may seem retro, but it’s the best way to make a connection and let us know what you’re pitching or planning, not to mention learn about us and what makes us tick. The emails that follow will be MUCH more efficient, not to mention likely warm and memorable.


Type like a robot. Make sure that your email conveys your personality and know-how, but don’t go overboard.

Assume that we remember you, or know the ins and outs of your role or a particular project. A short, clear introduction and summary is always welcome if emailing for the first time.

Include lots of jargon or potentially confusing abbreviations. Give it to us straight, people.

‘CC’ the whole world, or hit ‘reply all’ if you actually just need to correspond with one person. Chaos and/or inbox explosion ensues.

Use 29 exclamation marks. A few will suffice, if that.

Send a barrage of follow up emails or ring us as soon as you’ve clicked ‘send’. We’ll get back to you if your email’s of interest, and if we don’t, try approaching with a different idea.

Have you made any embarrassing email faux-pas? Does anything particularly grab your attention or make you hit ‘delete’? Let us know on Twitter or comment below.

Joanne Mallon is a media career coach and author of Social Media for Writers

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