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E-mail Etiquette – An Overview by Dr. John Hogan

publication date: Mar 1, 2016
author/source: Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
Email Etiquette

Hospitality is one of many industries that has embraced the convenience and speed of email with guests, each other, our suppliers and our contacts.  The cost involved with many types of mailings has also decreased and, in general, our ability to save time and speed-up decision making all has led to a more effective work environment. 

While emails have dramatically reduced the proverbial game of "telephone tag", emails now have replaced some of the personal contacts associated with the call or an individual visit.  There are many different opinions that surround what is considered to be proper e-mail etiquette; however, there are certain basic pointers that can be given to enhance its' effectiveness. The following suggestions fall under that category.

Despite what people may say or what you may think, your e-mail correspondence is not private. There is no such thing as private email.  A number of sources can access it at any time.  In some cases, the email administrator has the ability to access your email, while some companies monitor employee email.  It is also good to remember that email is software and things can go wrong (like receiving someone else's mail). 

Finally, there is always the threat of someone hacking into your email account.  Although not easy, it is a possibility. In any case, do not email anything that you would not post on the bulletin board at the office.  If you want to send      something personal and are worried about the security of your message, deliver it in person or send it be snail (U.S.) mail.

With any form of communication, the question of grammar usage is bound to come up. There are many important things to remember when typing and sending an email.

Do not get caught up in the use of excessive punctuation. By ending a sentence with!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, the only thing you show is your ability to use the shift+1 keys with great proficiency.

Abbreviation usage is rampant in the world of email.  In the pursuit of saving keystrokes, email authors seemingly trade clarity for confusion. Words like thnx, luv, and smiley faces like :-), have found a common place on our computers.  While this may be acceptable for personal use, it becomes a concern when used in the corporate world. Always remember that it is better to be clear than cute.
Salutations & Signatures
It is always a good rule of thumb to play it safe. If you are sending informal business communications within your company, use of the addressees' first name is acceptable, such as "Joan" or "Jose".  The more formal greetings, "Dear Mr. Smith" or "Ms. Espinoza" are good examples of using caution .

In closing an email, the same format of a letter should be used, minus the signature.  Your name, email and legal address, as well as your phone and fax numbers can be usually permanently pasted at the end of all emails. This makes it quicker in composing your messages and the full and accurate return information is always there.

Responding to a an email
It is wasteful and frequently very annoying to include a complete copy of the original email message with the phrases "OK" or "I agree" at the end.  On the other hand, if you send only the response "sounds good" to an email that had 5 different parts to it, your response is vague and does not meet the needs of the sender.  It is best to copy and past only the parts of the message that requires your specific feedback, such as:

>> and do you feel we should join the special  co-op advertising plan at a cost of $450?


Yes . It is a good investment and we need to increase our market share

Technology is moving at an incredible rate.  There are ways being invented to increase options and space using HTML, Rich Text Formats, ZIP and more.  It is smarter and easier to use plain text. Every system can handle plain text, but not all can handle the latest improvement, which means your messages may not get through.


To be flamed means that you have sent email to an individual or group of people to cause them to respond back in a less that desirable fashion.  Basically, it is an electronic form of verbal abuse.  The best thing to do is to ignore the message, as a response will more than likely just fuel the "flame."  There are some things you can do to limit the flames that you receive.

1.      CAPS
It is important realize that using upper-case letters is the same as shouting in someone's ear.  So if you don't want to SHOUT, don't use all caps.

2.      Commenting on grammar
Nobody wants to feel patronized.  Be sensitive.

3.      Mass-mailing
This is a major mistake .  Nothing will generate more flames than this.  


Don't print out every email that comes to you.  One of the great things about computers is the ability to save paper and in turn trees.  View the documents first on the computer and the use the delete key before the print key.

The Internet is an evolving encyclopedia of un-explored potential. Email is one beneficial tool that is being enhanced constantly. Use your Internet search function for E-mail etiquette to learn of improvements and accepted shortcuts.

Technology in Brief   [1]
Using proper email etiquette is as easy as applying a bit of empathy to your messages: send only what you want to receive.  The following additional etiquette guides will help you consider a variety of issues when using email.

  • Is your message really needed by the recipient(s)?
  • Is your message for routine rather that sensitive message?
  • Are you sure, your message is not "spam" (an annoying message sent repeatedly) or a chain letter?
  • Have you carefully checked that your message is going where you want it to go?
  • Has your wording avoided defamatory or libelous language?
  • Have you complied with copyright laws and attributed sources accurately?
  • Have you avoided humor and sarcasm your reader may not understand as intended?
  • Have you proofread your message carefully?
  • Is this a message you would not mind having distributed widely?
  • Does your signature avoid offensive quotes or illustrations, especially those that are religious, political or sexual?
  • Are attached files a size that your recipient's system can handle?
  • Are the files you are attaching virus free?
  • Have you began with the recipient's name or used a greeting?
  • Have you closed with your name or a closing statement?
  • Is your message short and concise?
  • Have you been careful to use dashes, asterisks, solid caps, etc. only as appropriate?
  • Is your document free of unnecessary abbreviations?
[1] Lesikar's Basic Business Communication,  p. 216-217  Lesikar, Pettit, Flatley , McGraw-Hill, 1999

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