Email Communication Best Practices

Email Communication Best Practices

by Emily Cohen

Many of our clients struggle with communication challenges, both internally and externally. While we have written many times on various best practices, we also have recently developed the following standards for email usage that you may find helpful:

  • use signature function (include: full name, title, company name, phone, address, and URL)
  • use priority tool as follows:
    • highest: urgent, need response in < 1 hour
    • high: need response in < 8 hours
    • normal: need response in < 24 hours
    • low: need response, but no timing required
    • lowest: no action or response needed
  • subject area must:
    • be concise (2-5 words maximum) and specific
    • summarize email content (e.g. new project, new event, new revision, approval, new appointment, meeting notes, question)
    • use action-oriented words to summarize intended end result (e.g. approve, confirm, advise, read, FYI, RSVP)
    • if it’s a response, change header (so the subject area is more specific to the current email, than the full chain of emails)
  • use name of recipient at beginning of email text
  • all emails must be responded to within 24 hours (unless priority requires action sooner or no response is needed)

All internal and external emails must use the above standards and we recommend that adherence to these standards should be monitored quarterly and considered during performance evaluations.

Emily has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for over twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice. She helps creative teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes.

Emily currently serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force. Emily has also served as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors and has taught classes and conducted seminars for many leading design schools and organizations. Emily is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry. Learn more at and

2 thoughts on “Email Communication Best Practices

  1. Deborah Templeton

    I would also like to add:
    1. If including the email chain, either summarize what is important in the earlier emails, or direct which email in the chain is most important.
    2. Also, consider deleting the signature when sending internal emails. They cause a lot of visual clutter, especially when the recipient is required the read the entire chain. We also don’t need if we work in a smaller office and all co-workers know each other.
    3. It is polite when someone needs to respond to an email, send the email “To” them and do not “CC” them. CC is seen as needing no action when the priority tool is not used.