What would you say is the most accepted form of business comminication with your fellow co-workers? Over time, the answer to that question has become email.

It hasn't always been that way.

In 1997, for example, a majority of American executives favored face-to-face meetings to any other form of communication; only 34% preferred email.

More recently, the 34% has almost doubled. Two thirds of corporate executives preferred email in this study, compared to the next most popular options: desktop phones and mobile phones.

So, email is no longer a marginalized means of communication at work. Corporations and employees must consider how to ensure the effectiveness of emails.

Working students in online degree programs, how do you, as an employee and/or as a corporate leader, ensure that email communications are effective and efficient? Follow these eight tips:

1. Be as specific as possible: In Grantham University's English 101 and 102 classes, for example, online students learn that it is important to know their audience. With business emails, defining the audience is crucial to effective communication. Which email would you be more likely to read?

From: Information Technology From: Information Technology
To: All employees To: Your name (John Good Employee)
Subject: Why password protection is important Subject: Protecting your password


Messages addressed to specific employees are more likely to catch those employees’ attention. Heck, I know to protect my password, a mass email would go to the 'I may get to it later' file. If it came to me by name, however, I would be more likely to read it.

2. Consider that emails are not just informal, amorphous messages: Structure is important. Subject lines, personalized messages, and format can go a long way toward engaging employees. The research alluded to above compared general emails containing colorful clip art combined with a lack of personalization with more structured emails that were personalized and formatted in a business style. The structured emails drew significantly more responses.

3. Develop email formatting policies:  Every employee should know that work emails are property of the organization. Policies covering ownership of email are common, but where are the policies about email format? Certainly, informal exchanges between employees are important and attempting to format those communications would be a daunting (and probably annoying and unproductive) task, but policies about mass communication emails should be developed.

4. Be sure your message is clear: I once received an email that asked about the cost of acquiring an auditing tool. I replied with the cost of the application. Here was the subsequent response I received (to the best of my recollection):

“That is not the information I was looking for; how much time, how many people, and what other resources are needed, over and above the cost of the application?”

A little clarity goes a long way.

5. Passive Voice is a good thing: Which email would you rather receive?

You are late with the report for the board. When will you be turning it in? The drop dead date is April 3.

“You” messages place blame.  I tend to push myself back from the computer when messages like this hit my inbox.

The board report was due on March 28. April 3 is the last day that the report can be submitted. April 4 is when the board packets are mailed out, and the report must be included in the mailing. 

Passive voice takes the focus off the individual and puts it on the action requested.  Additionally, this message provides an explanation for the due date of April 3.  The individual knows (in a non-judgmental way) the consequences of not getting the work in on time.


6. Think before you “Swoosh": At a corporation I used to work for, we referred to the mass forwarding of emails outside of the initial two-person conversation as the “The Swoosh Factor.” Is there ever a time to “Swoosh?” Well, everyone has to judge a particular situation and decide whether to escalate an email exchange. Tip: Never escalate unintentionally. Getting blind-sided is not a pleasant experience.

7. Proofread: It's very easy now-a-days to type emails at a rapid pace, with other tasks waiting to be completed, and hit the send button. Not a good idea. Take the time to look over your emails to ensure proper grammar and punctuation.

8. Sometimes, it OK to pick up the phone. The phone can save time on back-and-forth exchanges. If your message is not getting through, it's time to talk. Email can be a powerful tool, but phone calls can be more direct and cover issues in a shorter period of time.

Email seems to be here to stay. By considering the format and content of your communications, you can ensure that your message is delivered clearly and that desired outcomes are achieved. Good luck!