The crucial email reply etiquette rules to appropriately respond to emails. The polite behaviors to reply and avoid embarrassment.

What email reply etiquette is

Email reply etiquette is the set of rules to properly respond to emails. Such rules help us avoid behaviors that may make us look rude or not respectful. They include:

  • The correct practices to politely reply to an email.
  • The mistakes to avoid.

When you reply to an email, follow the etiquette rules to respond in the appropriate form and avoid upsetting the recipients.

Etiquette rules to reply to an email

Email reply etiquette rules

1) Do not remove email recipients when you reply

In general, when responding to an email, it is not appropriate to remove some of the recipients from the original email. Every recipient included in the original email should be able to see how the thread evolves. Removing one or more recipients is equivalent to unilaterally removing people from a conversation, and thus it is considered rude.

When you respond to an email with multiple recipients, just hit the “reply all” button. You do not need to change the order of the recipients.

The exception to this rule is an email that asks for individual responses that only the original sender is interested in receiving. In such cases, it is perfect email etiquette to reply only to the sender.

2) Move recipients to bcc after an introduction

An introduction email is an email used by a sender to introduce two or more recipients to each other.

When you reply to an introduction email, it is polite to move the original sender to bcc, as long as the sender does not need to be involved in the subsequent thread.

When you move someone to bcc, notify everyone in the first line of your reply. For example: “Moving Anna to bcc – thank you for the introduction”. This way, the original sender knows that you replied and appropriately showed gratitude. At the same time, the other recipients are aware that the original sender is in bcc in this message, but will not be included in the subsequent thread.

3) Include a salutation only in the first email reply

When replying to an email, it is appropriate to include a salutation in the first reply. In the subsequent replies, it is best to avoid including the same salutation, as it is an unnecessary repetition and can be perceived as too formal.

4) Do not change the email subject

When replying to an email, it is best not to change the subject of the email. Keeping the same subject allows grouping all the emails that are on the same thread. Thus, it helps people to follow an email thread without missing any of the messages. Thus, changing the subject of the email risks being confusing to the other recipients.

Furthermore, changing the subject can be disrespectful to the original sender. It may imply that the original sender chose an inappropriate subject and that you are correcting it.

5) Always reply to every email

It is good etiquette to reply to every email. Doing otherwise can be very rude to the sender.

6) Reply within 24 hours

It is best to reply to an email within 24 hours. However, do not respond too fast. Take some time to read the original email and check your response thoroughly. 

How to deal with someone that is not replying to an email

When you do not receive a reply to an email, you should follow up. It is best to wait 2 or 3 days. 

Write in the same email thread. Ask the person whether they have seen your email. If you need a reply by a specific time, state it.

Send the reminder only to the persons that must reply. Avoid embarrassing them in front of others. Alternatively, you can reach out to the recipient via chat.

How to ensure people reply to your email

Some recipients may not respond to an email because they do not understand what you are requesting them. Thus, to ensure that people reply, include a clear call to action at the end of the email. If you need action by a specific time, state the deadline too.

email reply etiquette mistakes

Email reply etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst email reply etiquette mistakes: 

  • 8/10. Removing recipients from an email thread.
  • 8/10. Changing the subject of the email when replying.
  • 7/10. Not responding to emails.
  • 4/10. Replying after over 24 hours.