Email Etiquette Examples: Effective Communication Fail & Pass

With an ever-increasing importance on brand reputation and workplace efficiency, email etiquette and email writing style is continuing to be a business priority. So, lets take a look at an email etiquette example to see one way we can improve.

To set this up properly, I want to share with you that during my email etiquette training workshops one of the most common challenges I hear from participants is, “I’m just too busy.” So… I ask them how much time they spend following up to get answers they asked? That’s usually when I get the big eye-roll and exasperated sigh… and the comment that goes something like… “All the time – people just don’t pay attention anymore.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 5.59.13 PM

Let’s do some quick math. If a person has to follow-up on 20% of the email they send and they spend only 2 hours/day on email. In 1 week (5 days), they would spend an additional 1 hour and 30 minutes at work writing even more follow-up email.

To these people, I say, “I can give you back almost all of that 1 hour and 30 minutes… so you can get home to your family and friends – or ball game or….” And at the same time I can also improve your reputation with your customers, your suppliers and your boss.

Email Etiquette Example: Fail

All of us have received an email that looks like this. I call this an email brick.


This is a follow-up email regarding the international payment processing project proposal. We are still expecting to meet the development schedule of 12 months. Are we on schedule? Marie and I had a very productive meeting and she recommended I connect with you regarding the literature status. Please insure I have all background information and send me a detailed update of key milestones. Was the issue we connected with last month fully resolved? I assume it was. I’ll need to know by next Tuesday about the key milestones update.


What are the chances the writer will get the information they want? Very little because their needs are scattered throughout the message – and there’s a lot of unimportant even confusing information. Confusion almost always leads to follow-up email, increased tension and a wasted time at work.

Email Etiquette Example: Pass

But what if the writer took a moment to clearly ask for what they really needed.

Bruce Speaking On Global TV about Millennials

Bruce Speaking On Global TV about Millennials

What if they wrote an email that looks like this?

Hi John,

I’m following-up regarding the international payment processing project proposal. Marie Laplander recommended I connect with you regarding the literature status.

For each milestone I’ll need the following 4 things:

  • Milestone start date
  • Whose responsible
  • % Completed to date
  • Expected completion date

I am presenting to the board next Wednesday so please send me the milestone update by Tuesday. We are still expecting to meet the original development schedule of 12 months.

I really appreciate your help John. Please call me with any questions at 416 555 1111.


The Summary of Both Email

Believe it or not, the revised email example has 1 fewer words. In addition, the revised email:

  • Is much easier to understand
  • Specifically lists the 4 deliverables Pat requires (no guesswork by John)
  • Has a greeting and salutation (helps with tone)
  • Calls John by name – twice (helps with tone)
  • Respects and appreciates John (basically says thank you and builds rapport)
  • Offers a helpful ‘please call with questions’  message
  • Doesn’t confuse the message by including a request from last month

It’s also almost 100% guaranteed that Pat will get the information they need from John– when they need it… without need for follow-up email, AND John will feel appreciated working on this for Pat.

Email Etiquette Conclusion

Lets stop sending email bricks. We owe it to ourselves and our reputation and our families to take the time to save time. 

The idea that ‘I don’t have time’ to write a clear, polite, professional email is an epidemic we can cure. 

Happy email etiquette and time management training

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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