ABZ’s of Communication for PM’s and Techies… E: Email etiquette and Enunciate

With communication accounting for over 80% of a project manager’s time, the importance of GOOD communication cannot be overlooked.  Good projects begin with good communication!

E=  Email Etiquette and Enunciate

Email etiquette

One might argue that body language and tone do not translate well in e-mail communication, however, the use of “all capital letters” conveys yelling, as does the use of red type font.  Ensure that all email is written with the same level of professionalism used for formal memos including a formal opening (Dear xxx) and closing (Respectfully, Carol) with proper paragraph spacing.

Spell checking is a must, and shortcut texting and emoticons do not belong in office emails.  Don’t email anything without reading it through at least twice before hitting send.

A couple of other tips on emails:

  • Subject line: Make sure that the subject line is correct – especially if you are forwarding a message (subject might have changed) and if there is time pressure, include “Response needed by mm/dd/yy” at the beginning or end of the subject line
  • Urgent (!): This “tag” should be used sparingly for those emails to which you need a quick (less than 24 hour) response
  • Be careful with blind carbon copies (BCC): Be aware that if someone who has been “blind carbon copied” hits reply all, there is no longer any secrecy that you included them on the original email.  It might be more prudent to forward the email separately (still as a bcc but without regular email recipients) to remove this potential.
  • If you expect a response, say so! I often receive emails along with a cast of other folks and there is no indication of whether a response is needed from any or all of us.  If it’s an information only piece it is easy to file away – unless the sender specifically asks (early in the email) for a response.
  • Do not rely on “delivery” receipts: While it’s a great concept in theory – delivery receipts don’t really tell you anything.   The message may have arrived at the receiver’s email account but might go directly to spam, be inadvertently erased (I’ve done this), or not actually arrived!  (More on this in the next installment… F: Feedback!)
  • Read and re-read before hitting send: Because many of us compose and then rewrite our emails before we send them, it is critical to re-read the text at least twice before hitting send. Spell check doesn’t often detect grammatical errors or clumsy sentences!
  • Rescind is poor damage control: If you happen to hit enter prematurely and mistakenly send a message that you immediately regret (see “Read and re-read…” above) – it might be tempting to use a “Rescind” feature – but know that it often highlights the very message you want to forget. It is better damage control to either leave the situation alone and hope that it will be unread/go into spam/be forgotten, or to followup with the addressees by phone or other means.  Sometimes it is prudent to consult with a trusted co-worker before doing anything rash.  Take a deep breath before sending follow-up emails that might worsen the original message.


This tip is especially important when communicating with anyone whose first language is not English. It is common to speak our first language without realizing how our colloquial ways of speaking can trip up non-native speakers – and we can overlook the difficulty we cause by not speaking slowly and clearly to a diverse audience.  It is my belief that it is common courtesy and respectful for us to speak our first language in a way that others can understand their second (or third or fourth). This means speaking slowly and clearly enunciating our words!

To better communication and more successful projects!


Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======


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