Email and text communication — six basic rules for each

In my most recent column I recapped an online article that highlighted five key points for effective interpersonal conversations.

In my most recent column I recapped an online article that highlighted five key points for effective interpersonal conversations.

In the same article I acknowledged that technology, which includes email and now texting, is predominately used for business communications.

Effective face-to-face conversations continue to be a real issue in most workplaces. But as a majority of business communication is conducted through electronic methods, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is more important than ever.

The style and format means we use short, often incomplete statements. Unlike fact-to-face, both of these methods cannot communicate body language and tone. Therefore, messages can easily be misinterpreted.

Email remains the most pervasive form of communication in the business world, however social networks and instant messaging (texting) are gaining ground.

As we spend a significant portion of our day composing and replying to emails, let’s review basic email rules.

1. Respect people’s time. The sheer volume of email we deal with daily can create unnecessary stress and loss of productivity. If the conversation is likely to need back and forth discussion, make a phone call.

2. Never send sensitive or personal information. Always respect confidentiality.

Don’t send anything you wouldn’t want posted on the staff bulletin board. Remember, emails are legal records.

3. Include a clear subject line. There is a good chance that your message may be overlooked or even rejected otherwise. There are times that the entire message can be in the subject line field.

4. Be brief and to the point. Any longer than one page and the reader tends to skim the message, so key information can be missed.

If you need to discuss different topics, write a separate email for each subject. Make action requests clear and summarize at the end of the message.

5. Always be polite. Generally, emails are thought to be less formal, however your language, etc. does reflect your professionalism. If the situation requires it, use formal salutations and proper punctuation and capitalization.

6. Finally, review your message before you press “send. “Be sure you have your intended recipient and correct address. Check for spelling and grammar errors.

In a recent survey, roughly one in seven millennials said they prefer text messaging over other methods of communication at work. (1.)

Jason Dorsey at the Center for Generational Kinetics asked a pool of human resource experts to share some basic rules for texting at work.

1. Always ask first. Get/give clear guidelines during new hire orientations.

Employee policies are just getting up to speed on the subject. Supervisors or managers may support texting in certain circumstances. The owner/boss may not appreciate receiving them unless it’s an emergency.

2. Leave out salutations, best wishes and other formalities. If the recipient won’t recognize you or your number, identify yourself first. Save the emoticons for close friends and family.

3. Text when response time is important. Texting is an interruption-driven method of communication, less intrusive than calling but more than email correspondence.

4. Keep it brief. Use texting to share a key piece of information or ask short questions. An email or phone call is a better method to use when there are details to address.

5. Generally, common abbreviations and truncated grammar are acceptable. However, if the messenger is using full sentences, it’s best to do the same. Always check your spelling.

6. Reply promptly. Texting is defined as instant messaging, briefer than an email, so respond quickly.

It’s obvious that mobile devices have become our primary form of communication. But remember, diverting attention away from the person in front of you to answer your cellphone or check texts and emails is always considered rude and unprofessional.

Lastly, before you start to write that email or send off that text, evaluate the most effective way to communicate your message. A phone call is sometimes the quickest and most effective method to begin a conversation, get an answer to a question or schedule appointments.


John MacKenzie is a certified business coach and authorized partner/facilitator for Everything DiSC and Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team, Wiley Brands. He can be reached at

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