Office Communication – Email Etiquette 101

While email is an everyday part of life in the office it does not mean it is something you do not have to think about. Sending or receiving inappropriate email via your office email account can lead to everything from embarrassment, disciplinary action, lawsuits, and can also undermine your efforts to move ahead in your career.

First and foremost remember that email is not a form of communication that is suited to deal with sensitive information or information that goes into great detail. Think of sending an email like sending a postcard.

Confidential and/or sensitive information should never be communicated by email. While email itself may seem harmless you have to remember it is not a private way to communicate especially if you are using the office email account. You should assume when you are sending or receiving an email message at the office that it will be forwarded or read by others including those who employ you.

Emails should not be used to manage or critique people as it does not communicate unspoken nuances, tone of voice or body language the way personal communication does. Personal face-to-face communication leaves far less room for misunderstanding and can avoid email battles from erupting in the office. When in doubt, get up and walk away from the computer screen and communicate in person.

Emails should be kept as short as possible (and by that I don’t mean terse) or you risk losing the attention of the recipient. If you do send a long email that involves much detail and/or information then you should make sure that you go over the details of that email either in person or over the telephone as it is dangerous to rely on an email to communicate details or decipher information. You should remember that when reading an email especially one that is lengthy (sometimes referred to as the “”War and Peace” emails) people start to lose focus and stop paying attention to the details.

If possible when sending an email don’t task the email recipient to acknowledge delivery as this will almost always annoy your recipient before he or she has even read your message. Besides, it usually does not work anyway since the recipient could have blocked that function (I know that I do). If you want to know whether an email was received it is better to ask the recipient to let you know if it was received.

Try to avoid sending an email to multiple recipients. This will save those who don’t understand that “reply to all” means his or her email response is now going to be seen by all those who received the original message.

This may seem obvious but when you send an email in the office make sure you spell your coworkers names correctly or you may be sending a message to them that they are not important enough to you to take the time or interest to get it correct. Also, be sure that your entire email contains the proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Misspelled words and poor punctuation can confuse the recipient and change the meaning of your entire message. Spellchecking alone is not enough. Do not type in all capitals as it suggests shouting over cyberspace. In that same vein, don’t type an entire email message in lower case letters and don’t include slang words as both suggest laziness and lack of thought. Use subject lines that are appropriate and are clear – emails with the subject line “stuff” are generally not helpful.

The following guidelines should be used when composing and sending an email in the office:

– write the email;
– read the email (print it off );
– walk away from the email (take 5 minutes to clear your head); and
– edit and proofread the email (more than once).

Now before you hit “send” ask yourself if the email is clear, short, argumentative, ambiguous or accusatory and most important, would you be impressed to receive it. Remember that once you press that send button, there’s no turning back.

And last but certainly not least, don’t send that forwarded joke you receive to everyone in the office. Those who don’t share your sense of humor, those who are too busy to laugh including those who employ you, will lose respect for you and may cause people to wonder how much work you are actually doing while at the office.

Be courteous, businesslike and responsible. Make replies timely; use an automated “out of office response” when you are away. And don’t mix personal email with business email. Remember bad emailing can be hazardous to your career.

Contact DuMoulin Boskovich LLP for your legal needs.