Category Archives: Business Writing

E-Mail in the Workplace

Professional E-Mail Messages

The most common form of communication in the workplace is e-mail.  People’s professionalism is often judged by how they communicate online.

E-mail can serve different functions: to inform, invite, request, thank, apologize, confirm, or to develop a relationship.

The language/words used depends on whom you’re sending the message to and your relationship with them.

The tone of an email, which expresses a mood or emotion, should be respectful and formal, yet friendly, particularly with supervisors and managers.  E-mails, after all, do not give the sender the advantage of facial expressions and other non-verbal language used in face-to-face encounters, which can be used to modify one’s message to avoid giving offense or creating a misunderstanding.

E-mail messages sent at work must follow stricter guidelines than casual e-mail messages sent to friends.

The following are some basic rules of e-mail etiquette:

  1. Always include a clear subject line using words that focus on the topic of the message. This gives the reader a reference point. Use a different subject line for each separate message
  2. The salutation should be ‘Dear Ms./Mr.______’ when writing to a manager or supervisor – unless you’re on a first- name-basis with them. Avoid ‘flowery’ language like “Most Highly Esteemed Sir/Madam”
  3. Keep the message brief, but not so brief so as to appear rude or impatient. For example, do not reply to a detailed memo with words like “Me too” or “Good idea”. The response should be of an appropriate length
  4. A prompt response to someone’s e-mail is best. Don’t ignore it. Try to respond within a day
  5. Do not use emoticons (smiley faces, ASCII characters), especially in e-mails to people you don’t know well
  6. Do not use all capital letters; this is considered the equivalent of shouting
  7. Limit the use of abbreviations, such as FYI, PLS, THX or ASAP. Abbreviations like e.g., i.e and etc. are acceptable
  8. Do not keep replying to and sending the same e-mail about one subject over and over. Start a new email
  9. Never write or send an e-mail when you’re angry: the ‘tone’ in your e-mail is likely to offend the receiver, or give the wrong impression
  10. The signature at the end of the message should be short
  11. Read your message before you send it to make sure your message is clear.