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  • Try to write your message so it fits in one computer screen. Recipients do not always scroll down to read the whole message if it is too long.

  • Use a font size easily read by most adults: 12–14 points is a good standard.

  • Format all e-mails in this standard style:

    • Use a block style and begin paragraphs, greeting, and the closing flush left; do not indent them.

    • Skip a line between the greeting and the body of the message.

    • Use paragraphing and skip a line between paragraphs to help the reader skim through the message.

    • Write the body in short paragraphs. One-sentence paragraphs are acceptable.

    • Skip a line before the call to action paragraph.

    • Skip a line before the closing.

  • List or bullet details so they are easy to pick out. You can also indent lists or details to help them stand out.

  • Use simple formatting because complex formatting may not appear correctly for all readers, who may use different e-mail and word processing software.

    • Use keystrokes such as “*” or “-” to signal bullets instead of using the automatic bullet formats in some word processing software.

    • Use asterisks to set off titles of works or to replace italics in e-mail.

      Use: *E-mail: Communicate Effectively*

      Instead of: E-mail: Communicate Effectively

    • Use highlighting devices such as bold, italics, borders, special or colored fonts only if you know your recipient has the software to read these.

    • Keep the number of characters per line below 80. Longer lines may appear choppy in some recipient's messages. We never know where the recipients' software might break a line of text. Your recipient will have a hard time reading a message that is chopped up in strange places.

  • Use upper- and lower-case letters in e-mail messages. Using all capital letters is usually seen as shouting and is too difficult to read.

  • Double space after punctuation that ends a sentence. The double space helps readers keep their place while reading on a computer screen.

  • Write addresses within an e-mail by separating the lines in the message as they would appear on an envelope.

  • Remember: white space is a good thing.


Angell, D. Heslop, B. (1994). The elements of e-mail style. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

McGovern, G. (2001, July 5). The text revolution. ClickZ, www.clickz.com/article/cz.4077.html [2001, July 5].

Strunk, W. White E. B. (2000). The Elements of Style. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.



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