Without a doubt, I am not alone when I say that I send and receive a lot of email -- and the data backs me up.

According to the Radicati Group, a technology research firm, in 2018 there will be "about 124.5 billion business emails sent and received each day," in addition to another "111.1 billion consumer emails." Overall, it is estimated that the average office worker receives approximately 121 emails per day.

I would say that is a low estimate.

With so many emails, it can be easy to get lazy with our compositions and responses. The problem is that once an email is sent, it is in the ether forever, so any errors, omissions or words you wish you could take back are out for public consumption. 

So, to assist others in the quest to improve our skills, here are 20 simple tips I have learned over the years that will instantly improve your email etiquette.

  1. Avoid vague subject descriptions. The "subject" line is typically the first thing we will see when receiving an email. With hundreds of emails over a few hours, a vague or mysterious subject line gets you instantly filtered for consumption later -- or deleted altogether.

  2. Be sure to introduce yourself. Unless you are writing to a good friend or your parents, never assume that the recipient is going to remember who you are. Include a brief description of who you are and even how you met.

  3. Introduce your topic. The same goes for the message. Introduce your topic and explain why you are writing.

  4. Avoid overusing the "urgent" setting. A deadline change or life-or-death emergency are acceptable reasons to mark a message "urgent." Leftover food from the morning meeting in the break room is not.

  5. Never attach large or questionable files. Although most of us have fairly fast internet access, not all of us have unlimited storage on our devices or computers. Never send large files that could easily be minimized. With that said, you should also avoid compressed "zip" files, which can land you on an unwanted spam list for security reasons.

  6. Never include improper links. With the growing concern over cybersecurity and phishing scams, hyperlinks to unknown websites and masked URLs can put your recipient in a bad position. Be sure to check the security of a website before you send a link and be completely honest about why you are asking someone to visit a website.

  7. Avoid asking for personal information. As a general rule, never ask anyone -- regardless of how well you know them -- to send personal information electronically. Instead, call the person and use the information capturing device popular when I was a kid -- pencil and paper.

  8. Avoid discussing sensitive and confidential matters. Like personal information, avoid any discussions about confidential or sensitive matters. All the email hacks from the past couple of years should be proof enough why.

  9. Never send inappropriate content. Also as a general rule, never assume that what you write in an electronic communication is private -- it is not and never will be. That inappropriate joke or photo you received and forwarded to your buddy always finds a way to land in the wrong inbox.

  10. Use BCC with large distribution lists. When you send an email to numerous recipients, it is a good practice to address these individuals in the blind carbon copy (BCC) part of the email. Doing otherwise exposes those emails to all recipients, which can hurt your reputation for protecting the privacy of others.

  11. Use CC appropriately. In matters having to do with claiming credit, passing responsibility, or airing dirty laundry, avoid including superiors or other unrelated parties to the conversation via the carbon copy (CC) or BCC. Just keep it to those with whom the issue matters.

  12. Use proper grammar and etiquette. Please proofread -- please. If you are not a strong writer, consider a service, such as Grammarly.com, to help.  

  13. Avoid getting too familiar. For the most part, unless you are writing to your best friend, do not assume a recipient wants to be treated like one.

  14. Delete email trails. When you forward an email, the original email is often included in your message. Do this a couple of times, and you have a long trail and record of previous correspondences. While this can be helpful, it can also be disastrous, especially if was received by a number of different people before you. Always proofread the entire email before you send it.

  15. Be conscious of the recipient's gender. The other day, I wrote an email to a Ms. Smith (not real name), because the individual's first name was Kim. Well, I was wrong, it was Mr. Smith. Avoid this mistake, especially with uni-sex names, by doing a few minutes of research before you send.

  16. Draft angry emails. Nothing ever good comes from a message sent while angry or distraught. Nothing. If you absolutely feel you need to get something off your chest, I recommend that you write your email, stash it in the "Draft" folder, and walk away. Use this break to take a breather and think more about it more. Nine times out of 10, I end up deleted the email and calling the person. Remember, nothing you say in email ever goes away, so be sure to say it right first.

  17. Avoid pointless messages. Emails are by nature meant to brief, so keep them this way. And if what you are sending does not add value to the recipient's life, consider not sending it at all.

  18. Avoid "date tag." The best way to schedule an appointment is to give a few options, with specific days and times, in which you are available. The worse way to do so is with the question, "What works for you?"

  19. Include a clear call to action (if one is needed). While some emails are meant to provide information, others are actually written with a goal in mind. Be explicit, clear and upfront about what you expect the recipient to do. Never use passive aggressive or cryptic means to try to make your point.

  20. Let them have the last word. If the email you received does not ask for you to take action, for your opinion, or otherwise give you a reason to respond, then call it a day -- for both of you.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips for better email etiquette you can share with others? Please do so with us on Twitter.

Published on: Aug 31, 2018
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