Business Communication Etiquette (Part 1): Email


Email has become the primary way we communicate in the business world. It stands to reason then, that there are certain standards a person should abide by in order to not seem like a total asshat. I used to think these general guidelines were common sense, and therefore widely understood. How wrong I was.

Don’t Send Subject-Only Emails

Maybe your old man used to send you emails with the subject line “Just got your tuition bill for the semester, you’d better not fuck it up again like last year.” Even if you did, remember how annoyed you were when you open that message and saw that he hadn’t even taken the time to write “Love, Dad”? Maybe you don’t really have all that much to say and think that asking “Did you get those numbers for me?” in the subject will suffice. If that’s the case, and you refuse to flesh the request out into a complete message, either pick up the damn phone or get your lazy ass out of the chair and go ask in person. The point is, an email like that does not make you seem efficient or professional; it makes you seem like an uppity prick.

Don’t Omit Words

This one drives me crazy. Getting an email that says “Have other commitment. Will need to reschedule meeting or have without me” tells me two things that piss me off. The first is that I have to reschedule the meeting because you decided I wasn’t important enough; the second is that you don’t respect me enough to take the extra 3 seconds it would take to type words like “we,” “it” and “I.” I would even go so far as to guess that it takes you the same amount to type your robot-speak message as it would a normal-person message because you have to stop and THINK of which words to omit. Again I say, this does not make you efficient or professional, it makes you a condescending prick.

Don’t Send An Email Without Proofreading It First

Okay, this one may make me seem snobbish, but take it from someone who once misspelled the name of the Senior VP he was emailing. More often than not, we’re attempting to type fast enough that our fingers can keep up with our thoughts. Unless you’re stupid or hungover or both, chances are your fingers are not going to keep up with your brain. You will make mistakes that spellcheck just won’t catch. You’ll use the word weather when you ought to use whether, you’ll type a word twice, you’ll do something. Take the time to read your message before you send it, the extra attention to detail will set a much better impression. If you don’t know the difference between weather and whether, open a damn book once in a while.

Avoid The Reply-All Button Like The Plague

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you are in the habit of hitting reply-all, sooner or later it’s going to bite you in the ass. People who do this either wind up telling the whole office that they won’t be at the meeting that had to be rescheduled since they has to take their 5-year-old to the doctor to get her 4th urinary tract infection of the year checked out, or calling John in Purchasing a “greasy creeper” in front of the whole department – including John in Purchasing. If you must reply all, be extremely careful. If what you have to say doesn’t pertain to the entire group, leave me out of your kid’s UTI.

Are there more things I could write? Yes. But since my final pet peeve is people who use a shit-ton of unnecessary words in an attempt to sound intelligent, I’m going to stop here. Bottom line is be professional and polite and you’ll do just fine.

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Spaceman Spiff

Now a graduate with a few years of business "experience", Spiff didn't exactly turn into the interplanetary explorer extraordinaire he had hoped to become. Instead, he spends his days as a cynical desk jockey, moonlighting as a Contributing Writer for PGP and marching ever closer to the big 3-0, which has only fueled his transition from quarter-life crisis straight into thrisis.

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