Skip to content

Strip Off the Wallpaper in Email!

In homes, wallpaper is the paper covering the walls of a room, hallway, or staircase. It is often colored and textured, and it gives a certain feeling to the space, a feeling of comfort, elegance, the outdoors, etc.

In email, wallpaper is a colored, textured background. It gives a feeling of–of driving me nuts!

I hate email wallpaper.

I hate it because when I reply, it forces my message onto the same wallpaper surface, and it often distorts the look of my message. Sometimes wallpaper changes my black font to yellow. It changes the transparent background of my logo to solid white against the color of the wallpaper. Sometimes it even changes my Arial or Calibri typeface into something else.

It papers over my message with someone else's idea of a pleasing décor. Not fair!

In a business writing class last week, participants told me another reason they hate wallpaper: On a smart phone, it appears as an attachment, and they waste time opening it.

There is no good reason to use wallpaper in business email. Strip it off!

Do you agree? If so, please spread the word. If not, please share your reasoning.

Syntax Training


Posted by Avatar photo
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

15 comments on “Strip Off the Wallpaper in Email!”

  • I don’t like it either, but I have to deal with it. Wallpaper is popular in my office as a way to brand communications from certain departments or certain projects. The e-mail recipient can identify the sender and the project at a glance. This helps people who think and remember visually. Some people don’t read e-mail carefully, and they need a quick visual way to distinguish important e-mails from FYI-level e-mails.

  • Diane, thank you for explaining how wallpaper can be useful. I had not considered its at-a-glance helpfulness since it has always frustrated me.

    Does everyone in your office use wallpaper, or is it just for specific departments and projects?

    Thank, Diane.


  • I can’t agree with you more!! Hate wallpaper in email so much. The wallpaper is still as the background of my email even I wanna foward that……

  • I agree with you, Lynn. Although not as visually bothersome, I also don’t like the trend of including a quote in the signature line of professional e-mails. What one person deems as amusing or inspiring can seem offensive or trite to the recipient. I am always surprised at the number of job applicants who submit their resumes by e-mail and include a quote under their sign-off. It often makes them appear unprofessional, or conflicts with our non-discriminatory hiring practices (i.e. contains a Bible verse, etc.).

    My apologies for deviating from the original topic. I am now stepping down from my soapbox!

  • Hi, Joanne. Thank you for mentioning the steps involved in stripping off someone else’s wallpaper. I will try them next time.


  • Thank you, Gloria, Mee, and Leighellen, for dropping by with a comment.

    Leighellen, you would be interested in my blog post “What’s Up With Email Slogans and Sayings?” Just copy that title into the search bar at top right, and you will find others who agree with you.


  • I too am not a fan of email wallpaper, but if you are using Outlook you can usually disable it on a reply or forward. After clicking “reply” or “forward” go to your format menu or ribbon and change the font, background, etc.

  • Lynn, most e-mails are plain. We use wallpaper just for certain projects or from certain departments. For example, if the IT department needs to send an urgent e-mail to advise users about a tech outage, it will use its departmental “tech outage” wallpaper with a red and yellow color scheme. This gets users’ attention more than the standard red exclamation point mark for urgent e-mails.

  • Most email wallpaper strikes me the same as handprinted business cards or “business” email addresses that end in or In other words, the sender seems somewhat unsophisticated. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t foster great confidence in the sender.

Comments are closed.