Mailing list etiquette

What is email etiquette?

Email etiquette is the socially appropriate code for greetings, salutations, titles, pronouns, tone of voice when writing an email. This code is meant to convey courtesy and goodwill. Professional email etiquette rules are rooted in the social context in which the email is composed. So, they may change significantly across industries, social circles, and cultures.

At its core, email etiquette is simply email-courtesy. Professional email etiquette is about making your recipients feel comfortable by making them feel valued and respected. This means going the extra mile to make your message clear and concise, which respects the other person’s time and attention span. In a highly hierarchical setting etiquette would also mean acknowledging the recipient’s status and achievements.


2. Use a professional email address

Obviously, having your emails deleted is the last thing you want. One of the best ways to ensure that doesn’t happen is to avoid using a non-branded or nondescript address.  

If you are representing a company, you should always use the email address your company has provided for you. This instantly makes you look more credible and improves email deliverability substantially. Therefore, be prudent about choosing your professional email address.

However, if you are using a private email address (whether you are a freelancer, or just prefer to use it) you should really be careful when selecting your handle.

If you are engaged in B2B marketing, your business email address should always convey your name in order for the recipient to know where it came from and who they should reply to.

4. Include a signature block

Provideyour reader with some information about you, Pachter suggests. “Generally, this would state your full name, title, the company name, and your contact information, including a phone number. You also can add a little publicity for yourself, but don’t go overboard with any sayings or artwork.”

7. Limit back-and-forth exchanges

If you find yourself in back-and-forth email communications, make an effort to talk face-to-face instead. While email communication is a powerful tool, it can be misinterpreted and downright inefficient—especially if you’re referring to less recent correspondence. Resolve the back-and-forth email messages by picking up the phone or meeting with the recipient in person.

18. Never send an email without proofreading it

This email etiquette tip can't be stressed enough as misspellings, and grammatical errors will inevitably reflect poorly on you. After you've finished writing, go through the email body and the subject line at least twice to catch any mistakes. You can also try reading your email out loud to notice mistakes your eyes didn't catch.

1. Write a clear subject line

As many of us are constantly buried in our inboxes, the subject line can have a significant impact on whether your email gets opened or not.

To adhere to email etiquetteAim for a clear and short subject line that describes what your email is about in a couple of words or a concise sentence. Use identifiers such as "proposal" and "application" that immediately tell the recipient explicitly what to expect from your email. Subject lines that provide utility are more likely to get read, so keep it practical.

Whatever you do, never send an email without a subject line. It's a clear violation of proper email etiquette. Seeing the "No subject" almost guarantees that the recipient will move your message straight to the trash as it seems suspicious.

4. Understand the To and CC fields

The recipients listed in the “To” field are the direct addressees of your email message. These are the people to whom you are writing directly. “CC,” which stands for “carbon copy,” or even “courtesy copy,” is for anyone you want to keep in the loop but are not addressing directly. Anyone in the CC field is being sent a copy of your email as an FYI. 

Commonly, people CC their supervisors to let them know an email has been sent or an action has been taken or to provide a record of communications. The general rule of thumb is that recipients in the “To” field are expected to reply or follow up to the email, while those in the CC field do not.

Never Expose the Email Address of Your Subscribers

Third, in good mailing list etiquette, you never expose the email addresses of any of your subscribers. The BCC field will hide the addresses from everybody else, so use that if you are running your own list.

6. Be wary of excessive exclamation points

If you are in the habit of using exclamation points, be careful to limit them when expressing your enthusiasm or excitement.

Some people tend to overuse this punctuation mark and end up using several exclamation points in the span of a few sentences. This may make the writer sound overly eager or even immature. Use them sparingly and only when it is really appropriate.

12. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient

Pachter says to pay careful attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “to” line. “It’s easy to select the wrong name, which can be embarrassing to you and to the person who receives the email by mistake.”


The threading section above dips into a topic known as ‘netiquette’. For example, it is considered bad form (i.e. bad etiquette) to hijack a thread, or to format your emails in some strange way.

This is a large topic, but let’s try and cover the most important and relevant items.

Avoid cross-posting

Cross-posting is the action of posting the same message to several mailing-lists at the same time. While it may sound like a great way to reach a wider audience, it creates problems with replies, as not everyone will be able to post their reply back to every mailing-list you posted to. This results in cross-hatched threads, where some replies are missing depending on the mailing-list you’re trying to follow the discussion to.

Alternate solutions include choosing a main mailing-list for your message and posting separate pointers to that discussion on other mailing-lists, asking to reply to the thread there if interested. Or post separate messages on each mailing-list, to create separate threads.

Keep Discussions On-List

When replying to a discussion, or starting a new discussion, your instinct should be to have that discussion on the appropriate mailing list.

Avoid taking a discussion off-list by replying directly without cc-ing the mailing list.

Avoid starting a discussion off-list. If you find yourself cc-ing more than 2 or 3 people, you should probably just cc a mailing list.

We use mailing lists because it gives a wider audience the opportunity to stay involved or informed, it encourages openness and it means the discussion is archived for future reference.

Yes, sometimes it’s not appropriate to discussion something on a mailing list. But this should be the exception, not the rule.

Many of our mailing lists avoid altering the original From and Reply-To headers of messages sent to them, but all still provide RFC 2369 List-* headers so using a mailreader with reply-to-list functionality is strongly recommended. If you’re unfortunate enough not to be using such a client, you may be able to get away with using reply-to-all and then removing any irrelevant addresses (making sure to still include the mailing list’s posting address).

Job postings

OpenStack-related job postings should be posted to the (free) OpenStack job board, not the mailing lists.

Reviews request

Please don’t send review request directly on the mailing list but use other channels like direct email or IRC ping, see Thierry’s email on this :

Core reviewers already receive emails about things they should review, and use tools to prioritize their review queue. If you’d like someone in particular to review things, send an email to them or ping them on IRC. If you’d like to get your review prioritized up, chiming in in the corresponding weekly team meeting should be a hundred times more efficient. But sending something which duplicates the automatic email notification is ineffective and creates ML noise (which is a pain for everyone).

Conclusion: email etiquette can affect your professional future

When you get it right with email courtesy, you’ll help strengthen warm relationships and build a reputation for being helpful and reliable. Smooth mail etiquette can advance your career and open doors professionally and personally.