by Anna Wybieralska Jun 5, 2017

The world of "email" can sometimes seem complicated. But, really, the rules that govern email behavior are simple.

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When you walk into a busy coffee shop, you don't push your way to the counter and demand your Triple Shot Americano. You move to the back of the line and patiently wait for your turn. And, if you are most people, when it is your turn, you say "Please" and "Thank You".  This behavior is the etiquette one is expected to follow in a coffee shop. And just like ordering from a coffee shop, the world of email has its own customs.

The digital world often develops in areas, much faster than the social etiquette people should follow, while operating in those areas. And the world of email is no different. It has taken years for the possibilities to unfold and the acceptable social behavior to become defined. But, make no mistake, email etiquette exists. If you behave contrary to that code then likely you will be asked to stop and leave, just like a rude customer at a coffee shop.

Socially acceptable behavior changes over time. While at one point in the past or perhaps sometime in the future things may have been or will be different, right now there are some very clear rules that everyone should follow when sending an email. So, the first step is understanding that these rules exist. The next step is understanding what these rules are and how to follow them. Then finally "why" it is in your best interests to follow the rules.

The rules

The rules are actually simple and pretty much revolve around some core ideals: consent and honesty.

✔ Only send emails to people who have asked to or agreed to receive it.

✘ Don't send an email that pretends to be from someone or be about something it is not.

✔ Only send an email that clearly identifies who it is from and what it is about. No deception. That's it.

A good analogy might be:
This Saturday I am having a dinner party. I have invited several friends. But, another person named Bob, who was not invited initially, hears about the dinner and wants to join. I would expect that Bob would ask me directly if he can come over on Saturday night to join in that dinner. I might say yes, I might say no. The point is, if Bob shows up unexpectedly, that would not be OK. Furthermore, if I did invite Bob and someone else showed up in his place, or if Bob showed up but brought along another ten friends, or it turns out that really it was Tom pretending to be Bob all along and Tom showed up, those situations would also not be OK.

We are social creatures with rules that do exist and we need to respect them. Great. But how does this work with email?


This is where we cover the tools and technology itself and what you need to do to remain compliant and follow the proper email etiquette.

Only send email to people who have asked to or agreed to receive it

Abiding by the first rule to "only send email to people who have asked to or agreed to receive it" can, admittedly, be easier said than done. If you are managing a very small list of personal contacts of family and friends then it is fairly easy to keep track of everyone. But if your list starts growing into the hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands, then that is a very different story. It becomes essential to have automated subscription management forms, large data storage facilities, and records of events. Lucky for you, Elastic Email has all of this!


Your Elastic Email account can support very many millions of contacts. And since Elastic Email is a Cloud-Based Saas Provider, you will be able to access these contacts from any location. You can create and use unlimited contact fields for storing and maintaining all sorts of information about your contacts which can be used in your emails. Once logged in you can access your Contacts Screen in your browser. And you can learn more about the full scope of these features from our Contacts Documentation.

Managing subscriptions

Now, let's make sure that you have a clear subscription management process in place. And the best place to start is at the beginning: the sign-up form. The industry's suggested best practices are clear about this, and they enforce it by monitoring complaint rates. Elastic Email also monitors complaints, make sure you know the acceptable limits by reviewing our Complaints Guide.

If you get a new subscriber, you should verify them and their subscription with an email. The email asks them to simply verify the email address by clicking a link. This technique ensures that the person actually filled out the form and is not a bot, that the email address they entered was real and didn't contain typos, and that the person does indeed want to be subscribed to your email. Elastic Email offers a fully customizable Double Opt-In Web Form that you can easily place on any webpage. It integrates with your contact lists in your Elastic Email account and you can use it, in conjunction with Automation Campaigns. Or, you can use your default generated web form that is available from your Subscription Settings screen.

For any existing contacts, it is important that they are able to adjust their subscription from any email they receive. Whether that email is transaction or marketing in nature the recipient should always be able to change subscription settings or completely unsubscribe. Your account has an Unsubscribe Settings Screen where you can customize these settings. The Domain Verification Guide will lead you through all of the features and how to use them.

With both of these features in place, you can be confident that your contact subscription processes are matching the best practices recommended by the industry. And should you need to prove this, every action taken by your contact is tracked in your account. You can see when they subscribed, unsubscribed, which emails they opened or clicked, or which emails they marked as abuse. Best of all, once set up, the processes are totally automated.

Only send an email that clearly identifies who it is from and what it is about

Now, let's focus on the second email etiquette rule. "Only send an email that clearly identifies who it is from and what it is about". Again, Elastic Email has a few features that make this easy to automate.

Using your domain

One of the single most important steps to ensuring your contacts know the email is from you is to send the email FROM - the key point being that it is "". This ensures that both your recipient and the recipient network can verify your identity through a series of lookups of your domain. It can get a little technical, but with Elastic Email it is very easy to add your domain to your account and verify it, allowing you to send an email FROM that domain. The Domain Verification Guide will walk you through the process.

Physical address, contact info, and why

And finally, every email should include your company/organization's physical address, contact information, and a reason "why" the recipient is receiving the email. Your contacts may receive a lot of different emails. By having that information in every single email, you can ensure that your contacts remember who you are and why they subscribed. This can mean the difference between an unsubscribe and a complaint, the latter of which you will want to avoid as much as possible. And of course, Elastic Email makes it easy to include this information in your emails! The Account Profile Guide will show you how to automatically use your Account Profile in your emails and customize the way it looks.


When you use these features properly and follow the rules, you can be confident that your email practices are up to date, legal, and morally undivided. There will be little room for your email to be considered Spam. With Anti-Spam legislation passing in many countries, you can breathe a sigh of relief. No matter which country your recipient resides, the email you send them will meet or exceed their countries regulations.

You can give yourself a pat on that back, as you are also an active participant in the fight against "spam", unsolicited email, and those who seek to take advantage of others via email and the technology that utilizes it. There are very many people who have had their identity stolen, money lost, and property damaged as a result of access gained to personal information through malicious emails. There are many more who feel very strongly about transferring our social constructs of consent and privacy to our digital landscape. By following this email etiquette, you will be on the right side of history, and will you surely keep your contacts and your own organization happy and prosperous.

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Anna Wybieralska

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