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Tone and Etiquette in Writing Emails

This is the third post in our email writing series.  Let’s look at tone and etiquette in writing emails. As in all business interaction, the aim is to be polite and personable when writing emails. Develop the habit of using a conversational tone, but at the same be professional and business-like.

You want to avoid using the three S’s: sexist language, sarcasm and silly humor. Also avoid using capital letters. It indicates to your reader that you are probably in a bad mood and yelling. (Example: Do you want fries with that VS DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT?)

Review your email carefully before sending it. Make sure you are sending the right email to your intended reader. If you work for a large company, remember your employer can read your emails.

Consider this situation: you receive an email from a colleague that is written entirely in capital letters and contains what you consider offensive language.

How would you respond? Read the responses and decide which is the more appropriate reaction by checking “I would” or “I would not.” Then compare your answers with our suggested answers.

Action

I would

I would not

1. forward the email to my employer straight away.  

2. ask myself what exactly bothers me about the email.

3. assume that the writer is angry with me.

4. speak to my superior if I continued receiving what I consider rude messages from the same colleague.

5. respond immediately without calming down.

6. attempt to speak with the person face-to-face if possible or over the phone.

7. send an email if I was in a bad mood.

8. compose a polite response asking for clarification and review it two times before sending.

9. tolerate such an email.

10. keep a record of what I consider offensive emails.

11. necessarily jump to conclusion that it is rude without reading it several times.

12. continue speaking with that colleague.

13. respond to the writer’s phone call.

14. avoid responding to the person assuming the writer was in an emotionally-charged state.

15. send a response if I was not entirely sure it was professional and polite.

 

Suggested answers:

 

Action

I would

I would not

1. forward the email to my employer straight away.  

2. ask myself what exactly bothers me about the email.

3. assume that the writer is angry with me.

4. speak to my superior if I continued receiving what I consider rude messages from the same colleague.

5. respond immediately without calming down.

6. attempt to speak with the person face-to-face if possible or over the phone.

7. send an email if I was in a bad mood.

8. compose a polite response asking for clarification and review it two times before sending.

9. tolerate such an email.

10. keep a record of what I consider offensive emails.

11. necessarily jump to conclusion that it is rude without reading it several times.

12. continue speaking with that colleague.

13. respond to the writer’s phone call.

14. avoid responding to the person assuming the writer was in an emotionally-charged state.

15. send a response if I was not entirely sure it was professional and polite.

 

Score:

14 or more – Congratulations!  You have good interpersonal skills.

10 to 13 – Good!  You need to work on your communication skills.

9 or less – Poor.  When you are not sure, ask advice from a colleague.

 

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