Updated 01 October 2013

E-mail and SMS: Are you rude without knowing it?

Email and texting enable us to communicate instantly, but the ease and spontaneity of communication can present us with a number of pitfalls.


Email and texting enable us to communicate instantly, but the ease and spontaneity of communication can present us with a multitude of digital dilemmas.


More formal than a text message and less formal than a letter, emails are quick and convenient. They should, however, be approached with the same care and attention that a more traditional form of written communication would receive.

Always include a proper salutation at the beginning of an email (i.e. "Dear Mr Debrett"). Formal emails mimic letters, but for most emails, sign-offs such as "Best wishes" or "Thanks" are quite acceptable.

Beware of using capital letters too often; use italics or underlining for emphasis. Don't litter emails with exclamation marks, and avoid abbreviations or emoticons for business correspondence.

Be cautious of sarcasm and subtle humour, unless you know that the reader will "get it". If in doubt, err towards the polite and formal. Similarly, think carefully before hitting "send" if your email is written in haste or when emotions are running high.

Use "reply all" discriminately and don't spam friends and colleagues. Don't overload your emails with system-slowing extras.


Texts are for conveying short, instant messages. Important information may need a more lengthy explanation; if in doubt, send an email where you have more flexibility and space. Texting is a blunt instrument – do not send a text message if tact or subtlety is required.

Use as much conventional grammar, punctuation and spelling as necessary to ensure that you make yourself clear. Tailor your text message to the recipient – using abbreviated language and emoticons may look unprofessional or confuse a recipient not used to them.

If you have to cancel an appointment or communicate some important information, make a phone call. Don't let the convenience of texting be an excuse for always being late and never respond to bad news by text message. A handwritten letter or a phone call is always preferable.

In business, sign off with your name. Your recipient may not have your contact details stored in their phone.




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