The Three Essential Tips for Courtesy in Business Writing

Slide1Do you get annoyed when sitting in a quiet carriage if people talk, ignoring the comfort of others?

I’m writing this in a quiet carriage, listening to the exploits of the grandchildren of the woman in front of me—and, no, I wouldn’t put anything past kids these days—but I doubt what you said to their mother had any impact on her at all, and even less on the children’s behaviour.

It’s important, isn’t it, to be polite, to show that you care for others, to consider the comfort of others?

It’s equally important in business to consider the people with whom you work, to consider their feelings.

You do this when dealing with people you meet in person, but it’s just as important to show courtesy when writing.

Courtesy in business writing—3 important tips

  1. Don’t waste people’s time. Say what your email is about in the heading. This will make sure that the person receiving it won’t have to open it unnecessarily several times.
    • Don’t send kitten videos to colleagues in work time. Kitten videos are charming, but they waste the time of the recipient, and they waste company time.
    • One subject per email. If you put more than one issue into an email, it is likely that one or more will be missed, and this will lead to email ping-pong to try to cover all the issues. One subject per email, clearly flagged in the subject line, has been shown to be far more time-efficient
    • Don’t ‘reply all’. Unless you are certain that all the recipients of an email need to see your reply, only reply to the sender. ‘Reply all’ clogs up everyone’s inboxes. Perhaps the whole company doesn’t need to know that you will be attending a meeting.
    • Use suffixes in headings such as FYI and EOM.

Minutes of the board meeting 27/02/16 – FYI clearly labels what is in the email.

If a subject is tagged ‘For your information’ it shows that the recipient does not need to open it, or does not need to open it until they require the information.

Next board meeting is 27/03/16 EOM clearly signals that there is nothing extra in the email.

‘End of Message (EOM)’ tells the recipient that they don’t need to open the email.

  1. Don’t use jargon and long words unless you are sure that the other person will understand completely. Make sure that what you are communicating is as clear as possible. What you DON’T want to communicate is, “I think I’m better than you,” or, “I am an arrogant a…hole.”
  1. Never respond to an email when you are angry or annoyed.

Read over your emails before you send them to make sure they can’t be misinterpreted. It’s hard to convey tone in an email, so it’s very important to choose your words carefully.

Do you have any other tips for courtesy in business writing? What are your pet peeves? Let me know in the comments!

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2 comments on “The Three Essential Tips for Courtesy in Business Writing
  1. Penny Magro says:

    Thanks Rie, Always helpful to hear these messages as I use email extensively for business. The heading is a great reminder for me as I can get busy, quickly send back an email with new content and I haven’t changed the heading!!!! Penny M

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