Friends, This is an article appeared in the Business Line on April 20, 2009. If you haven't read please go through it.



Dos and don'ts of official e-mails 2009-04-20 12:14:38

By Ranjini Manian

The other day I received the following e-mail from a client's office in response to a request I had made for some information:







Looking at it, I realised that our young and "with it" population, one of our greatest assets, need to polish their e-mail etiquette.

My guess is that several readers of this e-mail will find nothing wrong with it. There probably would not be anything very wrong had it been sent as a casual communication between friends. But in a business scenario, it is all wrong.

Capital mistakes

First things first. Look at the font. The entire message is typed in capital letters. In the world of e-mails, that amounts to shouting. A Westerner receiving such a mail would jump to the conclusion that the sender is very angry or irritated with him/her, and is not bothering to hide the fact.

James, one of my newer clients, took offence when my colleague, Sharada, wrote in the subject line "RESENDING" in caps. He told her politely that she needed to stay cool! Needless to say, the Indian correspondent was not being rude but was merely using the All Caps option for ease of typing.

So please take care to press the Shift key when you want to put in capital letters where grammar requires you to, but otherwise stick to the lower case.

No short forms pls

To get back to our sample e-mail: You will notice several abbreviations. So what, you might ask. I don't even recommend this for SMS communication. In an e-mail, abbreviations such as 2mrw and U R are totally unprofessional and unacceptable. Treat e-mails just as you would any other business correspondence.

Remember you are making a lasting impression on people you may never meet in today's virtual world. This attention to detail is as important as a live meeting where women business managers would not want to appear with lipstick smudges on their teeth, or men with spinach stuck in them!

Punctuation points

There are also no punctuation marks in the e-mail I have quoted. Perhaps the sender thought they were not necessary, considering it was "only" an e-mail. There are others who simply strew their e-mails with exclamation marks, question marks and even emoticons. Take this one, for example:


We have received the communication yesterday!!!!!!! Thanks!!!!!! Boss was happy.But one of the rods was bent in transit. What to do????

Both extremes are unprofessional and create a bad impression not only about you but also about the company you represent.

Grammar matters too. In the first e-mail that I quoted, there are a couple of grammatical and semantic mistakes. See if you can spot them.

Whether you are dealing with expats or Indian colleagues, ensure that your communication is framed in correct, official language. A well-written e-mail earns you plus points in your readers' minds. Here are some general tips to follow while sending e-mails:

If you are unsure of how to address a person, stick to being formal. Dear Mr/Ms X can't be wrong. If you don't know the gender, address the person by the full name, Eg. Dear Yasoshui Hanegawa or Dear Jeanne Ranay.

Be crisp, concise and clear in your communication. Aside from an occasional friendly enquiry once you have established a level of comfort, keep to the point.

Format your e-mail so that the lines are well-spaced and if you have to set down points, use bullets or even numbers.

Do not put read or delivery receipts giving the reader the task of pressing the button; instead, you could request them to acknowledge receipt of the e-mail.

Limit attachments. They clog the in-box and generally only serve to irritate recipients. Avoid them where possible.

Where relevant, preserve the e-mail thread so that the readers can follow the sequence of developments.

Don't hit the Reply All button as a matter of course. Think whether your reply to an e-mail merits being sent to everyone who has been copied on it.

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Use the CC button judiciously. The other day, a colleague had to tell a co-worker that I need not be copied on every e-mail communication between them, as it would only clutter up my in-box and add unnecessarily to my load.

Read your e-mail carefully for mistakes, check that you have put what you want to convey in the clearest possible way, and only then press the Send button.

And finally, be prompt with your correspondence. The e-mail is sent in the expectation of a quick response. Make sure that the expectation is met. Even if you cannot sort out the problem, acknowledge the e-mail and let the sender know roughly when he or she should expect a response.

The drive and enthusiasm of the brave new generation is something the West envies. We also have the trump card of English knowledge, which even China doesn't possess. With a little polishing in e-etiquette, we could make the most of these advantages.

PS: "Preponed" is not accepted English usage. The correct word is "Advanced". Also, the e-mail should have read "advanced to 12th" instead of "preponed on 12".

Have a good day,


From India, Kochi
So many replies in threads on CiteHR are in "sms speak". Very unprofessional. If you have something to say, write it properly. Others will take you seriously then and regard you as a professional person with a valuable contribution to make.
John in Oz

From Australia, Melbourne

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