International email etiquette

These days much of our business correspondence is conducted by e-mail rather than the conventional ‘snail mail’. Unhappily, certain conventions have been lost or overlooked in the process, and can give rise to abrasion, especially when there are cultural differences involved.


  • Sloppy layout
  • Poor spelling / typing errors
  • Incorrect grammar
  • Wrong forms of address
  • Lack of formal opening and closing
  • Missing reply information
  • Wrong tone for the person being addressed
  • One country’s conventions not acceptable in another country
  • Risk of virus infection
  • Divulging others? email addresses
  • Manners

Sloppy layout

Get professional help to establish templates. If possible, use a header, to make your email look like a regular letterheading.


Always use the spellchecker, but also use an English dictionary (spellcheckers are American)


If in doubt, ask someone who knows. Phrases such as ‘between you and I’ will diminish you in the eyes of some clients.

Forms of address

When approaching a business contact for the first time, it is unwise to write ‘Hello there’ or ‘Hi’ or even ‘Dear John’. In some cultures, formality is always expected.


Some emails leave out the salutation altogether. Others omit the name and title of the sender. If you are running back and forth with reply after rely on the same topic, and to someone you know well, it?s all right to omit the salutation.


Err on the side of caution. Don’t be familiar with a client or someone senior, and never write what you may regret the next day.


See Opening/Closing. In some countries you are expected always to use a salutation.

Virus & Junk

In business circles, it is considered very bad manners to send a virus, so install and regularly update your virus checking software. It is also bad form to pass on chain letters, however well-meaning they may be. And never pass on email advertisements.

Divulging addresses

If you send an email to a whole group of unconnected people, use the BCC (blind carbon copy) to avoid exposing others’ email addresses without permission.


Capital Letters in emails are regarded as SHOUTING. Use *stars* for emphasis.

Check Your E-mails Regularly

Western managers check 3-4 times a day; not once a week.

Please Ensure You Reply

It seems obvious but many cultures really don’t bother for days!

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