from the Blog

Email has replaced the Formal Letter



          “Please excuse any typos and mispellings?”

If this is part of your email signature line you might want to move on – you are probably not going to agree with this post.


I had an experience the other day that reminded me of how important attention to my email communication is. A client directly forwarded one of my emails to a pretty wide distribution list. I found about it from someone down line. It was a positive experience but had the potential to be very bad.

Forwarding emails is so easy that it is common for clients and others to forward emails onto their teams, or their constituents. These forwarding actions can have dire consequences.

    • Have you had this happen to you?
    • Have you received a forwarded email and asked, ‘what were they thinking’?
    • We reply, forward, and create chains, yet we really can’t be sure where the email might end up.

Email has been in the mainstream for over 20 years. Because of very simple user interfaces, early emails tended to be cryptic, much like text messages today. The user interfaces – Outlook, Gmail, and others have greatly improved over the years allowing for advanced formatting that rivals many of our word processing programs. I think this has raised the expectations of email – it certainly has with me.

Email has become a vital part of how we communicate. In most of our businesses emails have replaced letters in more than 90% of our written correspondence. While we acknowledge and applaud the acceptance of email as a more formal communication most of us have not graduated to treating it as such.

We all learned how to write a formal letter in school.  You remember – a subject, salutation, body, closing, and signature. I think emails should be treated the same. Even quick email responses deserve this attention.


Why is this important? 

Quality of your emails are representative of your brand. We have an opportunity to set ourselves apart from the crowd. We can set the standard – raise the bar – if you will.

Quality of your emails are representative of your culture. What do your email practices say about your business? Sloppy emails might be viewed by some as representative of a sloppy culture. For the naysayers – yes I get it – some clients don’t care. For me, I would rather be an over achiever just in case they do.

Formal emails create clarity. Clear, concise, and complete thoughts and sentences create clarity. Cryptic one line emails usually require two or more rounds just to get to an answer.

Emails (and everything digital) live forever. Emails are documentation – many times our only documentation. They are a record of our actions. In my world they are often used in litigation.


This Week 

Go to your sent file – take a look at the last twenty emails.

  • To: Is it clear who you are corresponding with? Are you using cc: appropriately?
  • CC: Are you including people that don’t need to be included?
  • Subject Lines: Does your email address only one subject? Do you update subject lines that are not correct when you reply?
  • Salutation: Again, is it clear who you are talking to? Who is expected to respond if there are required action items?
  • Body: Are you guilty of half sentence responses? Or is your message clear and concise? Are action items clearly identified as appropriate? Did you list attachments?
  • Closing: Yes, you should have one – at least a Thanks.
  • Signature: Do you sign your emails with just your first initial or your full name? (Have you ever received an email that you couldn’t identify by the signature or email address and contextually it just didn’t make sense?)

As you compose emails this week, give a some thought to being a little bit more particular. Pay more attention to clarity of content and formatting. Plan for your emails to be forwarded. I think that being a little bit more deliberate will make your communication more effective.

I contend that the more effective your communication the more successful you will be.

. . . go have an Awesome Week!

Tom Trabue