Modern Etiquette - pluses and perils of text, e-mail

2013-09-30 13:25
Cellphone (Jay Reeves, AP)

Cellphone (Jay Reeves, AP)

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London - E-mail and texting enable us to communicate instantly, but the ease and spontaneity of communication can present us with a multitude of digital dilemmas.


More formal than a text message and less formal than a letter, e-mails are quick and convenient. They should, however, be approached with the same care and attention that a more traditional form of written communication would receive.

Always include a proper salutation at the beginning of an e-mail (ie "Dear Mr Debrett"). Formal e-mails mimic letters, but for most e-mails, sign-offs such as 'Best wishes' or 'Thanks' are quite acceptable.

Beware of using capital letters too often; use italics or underlining for emphasis. Don't litter e-mails with exclamation marks, and avoid abbreviations or emoticons for business correspondence.

Be cautious of sarcasm and subtle humour, unless you know that the reader will "get it". If in doubt, err toward the polite and formal. Similarly, think carefully before hitting "send" if your e-mail is written in haste or when emotions are running high.

Use "reply all" discriminately; don't spam friends and colleagues. Don't overload your e-mails with system-slowing extras.


Texts are for conveying short, instant messages. Important information may need a more lengthy explanation; if in doubt, send an e-mail where you have more flexibility and space. Texting is a blunt instrument - do not send a text message if tact or subtlety is required.

Use as much conventional grammar, punctuation and spelling as necessary to ensure that you make yourself clear. Tailor your text message to the recipient - using abbreviated language and emoticons may look unprofessional or confuse a recipient not used to them.

If you have to cancel an appointment or communicate some important information, make a phone call. Don't let the convenience of texting be an excuse for always being late and never respond to bad news by text message. A handwritten letter or a phone call is always preferable.

In business, sign off with your name. Your recipient may not have your contact details stored in their phone.
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