Courtesy is a good virtue in writing e-mail messages. In fact, I tell people to be
overly courteous because e-mails can offend easily. Politeness certainly has a role in
I used to work in the corporate world. Workers in any place where deadlines are
tight tend to fire off e-mails off the cuff. When people fire them off so rapidly, it
can undermine your overall message.
InfoWorld: What are some of the deadly sins of e-mail communication?
Erwin: Don't write out an emotional situation.
If you're angry, sit back and relax. Get back that emotional balance. It's like
being married: If my wife and I have an argument, we may say things that we don't mean
to say. It's better to step back and think first. The wrong message can be sent very
You just have to be careful -- consider your auddience and your purpose for writing
the e-mail in the first place.
Technology dictates that we should get information out as quickly as possible.
That's fine, but the problem is we should always consider how people are going to
interpret our messages. People [could] get the wrong impression of you.
People have more respect for you if you respond succinctly and nonemotionally.
You're just trying to get [the readers] the information. [During] face-to-face
conversation is when you should express any emotions.
Don't use any hot words.
InfoWorld: How can you steer clear of these deadly sins and instead craft
effective, clear e-mail messages?
Erwin: If you're responding to an e-mail, read the first message very carefully.
I'll answer e-mails very neutrally. I don't give away any emotion.
Don't go into complicated, long e-mail messages. You can't engage in a conversation
via e-mail. What you can do well is supply information.
What you don't want to do is present any emotional instability or anger. It's not