OMG, LOL!!! How to Convey Tone In Email Without Seeming Childish

How do you convey tone in email without seeming childish or girlish?  Can you ever use exclamations in emails?  Reader C wonders…

I’m hoping you can address the issue of using !’s in emails at work. As we all know, tone is hard to convey properly via email. However, whenever I am inclined to use an ! to convey a positive tone, I get the sense that it actually reads as childish or immature. I also never seem to notice men using !’s in emails, either…. I’d love to hear yours and others thoughts on this!

Outstanding question, and I can’t wait to hear what readers say.  A lot has been written about overuse of exclamations in emails — with some people even suggesting that one exclamation mark per email is a good rule to follow.  There’s even an app to help you check the tone of your email!  My best general advice is that abbreviations, multiple punctuation marks (!!!), and overly casual phrases (“amazeballs!”) have no place in professional emails.   Beyond that, I think a lot of this depends on why you want to use a positive tone.  For example:

  • If you’re telling a subordinate he or she did a good job:  They don’t care if you use exclamation marks; they’re just happy to get the praise.  I think something like, “Outstanding!” is professional and encouraging without seeming juvenile.
  • If you’re trying to sugarcoat a bad situation for a superior:  Exclamation marks aren’t going to help you here — in fact, they’ll probably hurt you.  You don’t want to be overly grave (“I am so sorry this happened!!!”), or overly breezy (“…but on the plus side no one lost a limb!!!”)… it’s a tough tone to strike in email.  Which, honestly, is why I recommend picking up the phone or dropping by your boss’s office. Not only do you not have to worry about tone, but you can better gauge your boss’s reaction, and — bonus! — there’s no paper trail that might get forwarded, misconstrued, filed away, etc.

I guess that’s my best tip — if you’re worried about the tone being misunderstood, it’s best to have the conversation orally verbally. Otherwise, trust yourself and the English language — word choice goes a long way towards, you know, communicating.  For example, writing “Great news, team: we are done with the doc review.”  doesn’t need any exclamation marks to get the point across.

Readers, what are your best tips on how to convey tone in email without seeming childish, juvenile, or girlish?  Have you received any emails where you really noticed/minded the tone?

(Pictured above: amazeballs lantern, originally uploaded to Flickr by Rakka.)

Comments

  1. Great topic. In the example used, I’d actually say that the exclamation point after praise is not necessary and may take away from the sincerity of the message. I much prefer, “You’re doing a great job.” to “Great job!” — the latter seems like a bit like grade school praise.

    I generally stick to the no more than one exclamation point rule in e-mails, and usually eliminate them altogether. When I use them, it’s usually to convey enthusiasm (E.g., Thank you! or Happy Holidays!). But of course, this is a know your audience sort of thing. If someone is big on !!! and :) and the like, I may include an exclamation point more often because I don’t want the person to misunderstand my tone in light of their own communication preferences.

    • On the “great job” bit — here’s what I’ve noticed from my line of work (I’m a litigator). My boss will typically say, “you did a nice job with your draft” or “good work on the conference call today.” Again – routine praise. Those are followed by periods. When something really huge happens – a fantastic order from a judge granting a motion I wrote, an acceptance of a settlement offer I negotiated, etc. – then they throw in the exclamation points (and sometimes more than one).

    • My most recent pet peeve is that there is a “tilde” virus going around in emails at my firm.

      For example: Please file the 13G asap.

      Response:

      ~Will do.

      ~Have a good one.

      ~Sarah

      —–

      Why????? “~” is not a real punctuation mark. It’s not.

      • I often sign off (non-professional) emails with ~Lily. I think it looks pretty, and it obviates the need for a sign-off (sincerely, best, take care, etc). I would not use it in a professional setting unless I regularly emailed back and forth with someone.

      • That’s really weird. Where do people come up with these things?

      • Except for more formal e-mails (an oxymoron?) I usually use a tilde instead of a colon or dash in the greeting — as in, “Dear MJ ~” I never thought it was weird and have never had a comment (except from two male colleagues who mentioned it , oddly enough, on the same day or within a day or two of each other a few years ago, asking what is that called, it looks good). I’ll probably keep using it — but now I’ll be self-conscious about it.

      • Are you sure the tilde is intentional? It might be just the mail server/client translating characters weirdly.

    • Threadjack - How to Deal with Offensive Office-Wide Emails from Clueless White Male Senior Partner? :

      I work in a lawfirm of about 200 lawyers. We’ve recently had some excellent diversity training, and I’m sure that more than a handful of people are thinking about things like “micro-inequities” for the first time. Then comes the dreaded firmwide email from our most senior partner (who is a white male) congratulating an associate (young, female, African American) on several recent, outstanding accomplishments. The last line reads: “YOU GO GIRL.” Cringe.

      (He also recently sent an email congratulating a male African-American associate on a recent accomplishment, which included a similar cringe-worthy comment. This partner also sends firm-wide emails that are cringe-worthy without any racial or gender undertones — they just show that he is completely out of touch.).

      I would love to hear comments on how to address this issue. Or if I’m being overly sensitive and need to calm down. For context, I’m a white female senior associate, and I do not work with the old coot referenced above.

      • How would you address it? It sounds like he’s a bit clueless, but he has power, so no good can come of you doing anything at all.

      • I agree with Snarkster. Dealing with this is the responsibility of one of the other 198 attorneys in your firm. As a senior associate who doesn’t work with this partner, you gain nothing by getting involved. The exception might be if you were the associate to whom the cringe-worthy sexist comment was directed. If that happened, I would talk privately to a trusted, more senior, and sympathetic mentor within the firm for advice.

        If no one in your firm takes any steps to correct this problem, and you see it recurring over time, you might reconsider whether you want to continue working there and become a partner of this old coot. If you choose to stay, someday it could become your problem.

        • I dont have a great answer, but I would love to hear more on this topic. If we all just keep ignoring these kinds of comments nothing will change. So, any thoughts on how we can disrupt oppresive language?

  2. I like this topic.

    A while back, I noticed that I was often ending emails with “Thanks!” When I saw several in a row, I realized how insincere and cheesy it looked. So one test I use in determining whether to put in an exclamation point is whether the sentiment I’m conveying is routine or is it out of the ordinary. If it’s something that you write and send regularly, don’t use the exclamation point. It’s best saved it for special occasions.

    • I also recently noticed that I was signing of with, “Thank you,” when I wasn’t really thanking the person for anything. I stopped doing it and now the email just ends where it ends.

    • This. The first partner I worked for had a hard-and-fast rule of never, ever “thanking” the client. They hired us; they should be thanking us. I’ve since relaxed this a bit with in-house staff (e.g., paralegals) for little favors. But it’s a good rule of thumb.

      Now that I’m training people, I see how right he was. It just doesn’t look good or professional. I have one mentee who will write “thank you” five different ways in one email to acknowledge an assignment. It’s driving me crazy.

    • I follow the office standard, which is a routine “Thanks” at the end of every email. Many people even have it embedded in their email signatures. I felt that being the only person not attaching a “Thanks” with me emails made me seem overly curt or demanding.

  3. An email that said my work was “amazeballs!” would be. . . amazeballs. Lol!

  4. new york associate :

    Following up on the hair product discussion from earlier:

    Any suggestions for shampoo and conditioner for those of us with very fine hair? I have lots of fine hair that needs to be washed every day. I’m looking for something that will help build volume and create shine without weighing my hair down. (I tend to have hair that is dry on the first day and an oil slick by day 2.) Any tips?

    • Your hair sounds exactly like mine. I’m on a quest for hair products too. I just started using Pureology hydrate shampoo and matching conditioner (the one for fine hair) and I’m pleased so far. My hair seems shinier and healthier looking somehow. But I’m still getting over the sticker shock! It better work miracles if I’m going to buy it again. Any other suggestions for hair products? My hair is fine and frizzy, tends to be dry at the ends and oily at the roots. Lots of flyaways on day 1, but really greasy at the scalp by day 2. I need some sort of leave-in conditioner or frizz-control cream, but so far anything that’s effective is also greasy-making.

      • Marie Claire had a hair product roundup a couple months ago and for fine hair recommended Garnier Volume Boost shampoo + Pantene Pro-V Aqua Light conditioner. It made the point that fine hair doesn’t need moisture, and most moisturizing shampoos just weigh it down further. So, I just started trying this combination, and my hair does seem shinier and easy to take care of.

      • I have ultra fine hair. I use Aveda shampoo (blue Malva as I’m blond) and… I skip the conditioner. I’ve found that it was the secret culprit of my greasy, dingy hair. Instead, I just shampoo & follow with a light leave in (again Aveda: daily hair repair). When my hair was really rough, I used EverStrong overnight repair from l’oreal. Deep condition with oils on weekends. My hair has been great since.

        • Thanks for this. I’ve always used mositurizing shampoo/conditioner in hopes of banishing the flyaways. Interesting. I’d never thought about moisturizing products weighing my hair down further. Will try skipping conditioner or using something lighter.

        • financialfashionista :

          +1 on skipping conditioner. I have very fine hair, and it’s also pretty thin. I started only conditioning my hair once per week, and only the ends. Ever since I started doing that, I’ve been able to get away with washing only every other day unless absolutely necessary.

          If my hair starts to get really “rough” I just use my regular conditioner all over and leave it in for a couple of minutes then rinse. Seems to do the trick.

        • Another one for fine hair and no conditioner.. I’m using Klorane’s oatmeal shampoo and no need for any conditioner.

        • I have the same problem: fine hair that is dry the first day and greasy the second. What helped was a generic moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, then washing every other day. To combat the greasiness I use a dry shampoo on non-wash days. It’s subjective, but my hair seems healthier without as much washing and the dry shampoo really cuts down the shower/styling time.

    • I have fine hair also, and I like the Pantene Volume shampoo and conditioner.

    • Have you tried really mild shampoos for babies/kids? They usually leave my hair feeling very light and clean. I have fine hair too, but not the same issue with oilyness, and I use the TRESemmé shampoo and am happy with it.

    • I have hair like yours and like Bumble & Bumble Thickening shampoo and conditioner. I’m not sure it actually “thickens” anything, but it gives me more volume and texture. It also smells nice.

    • Tresemme’s 24 Hour Body line is great. I just started using it, and I was really impressed with the results.

    • I don’t use a conditioner, even on my ends, unless my hair is that dry. I just use shampoo. Then, if I need it, I’ll add the Pantene Split End Repair creme for fine hair — just a pea-sized drop, emulsify it a little in my hands, and run it through my hair. Then, I’ll brush my hair again. I know it’s for split ends, but it is super light weight and works all over the hair, just as long as you’re not using a lot.

      You could also try not using conditioner and using a moisturizing shampoo.

      • anon in-house :

        I would not recommend any of the above products (Pantene, Tresemme, Garnier, etc.) as they all contains sulfates. I’ve been cleaning up all of my cosmetics and haircare products into natural lines (for hair, Organix Shampoos) and notice an improvement.

    • I like Paul Mitchell with tea tree oil. It seems to be helping ward off split ends and make my hair less oily.

    • I really like EO Products rosemary & mint volumizing conditioner and shampoo for my fine hair. Noticed a real difference after I started using it. Sulfate-free, paraben-free, etc. Another brand that I like very much is called Pure & Basic. Their volumizing cool peppermint shampoo is great.

  5. This may be obvious, but don’t use exclamation points for criticism. “This draft has a number of substantive errors,” period, is just fine. Likewise, “you needed to check with me before sending this out.” Colleagues don’t need to yell at each other on screen any more than they need to in person. And I will add that if you want someone shaking in their boots, the period has it every time because it shows you’re not emotional and aren’t going to budge.

    I am guilty of “Thanks!” as a signoff–just thought it was warm, especially if someone has done something especially helpful. I generally use the exclamation point very sparingly, and no emoticons, but as AIMS said I do tend to adjust based on what the other person is doing.

    Finally, I’ve seen plenty of LOLs and !s and :)s in senior men’s emails. As with many other things, I don’t think they need to worry about it as much in terms of perceived competence and seriousness.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      So funny that you said this–the partner I work for just sent out one email (to the client, no less) that said “My bad” and another last week that had some smiley faces.

      I wouldn’t say my bad (my emails to the client are much more formal), but I have relaxed on using emoticons and exclamation points because I think it helps convey tone in emails (especially internal ones).

    • I try to be professional in all of my e-mails to my cleint’s. Unfortunately, I have to send alot of e-mail’s on my iphone, which does NOT help me with adresses and spelling, so I wind up makeing a few mistake’s but NOT critical, the manageing partner says.

      The manageing partner alway’s want’s to get the story from me verbaly, so we talk alot rather then write emails. That works, he say’s in a large firm but not here, where I can walk into the manageing partner’s office at any time, even like today, when he just got back and was buffeing his head with his dirty hankercheef! FOOEY!

      Frank told the manageing partner about Gonzalo and the manageing partner said we would NEVER go back there. He also told me not to talk to him, and if I picked up the phone and it was Gonzalo calleing from some body’s cell, to tell him that we are recordeing the line and that we would be talking to the manageing partner’s cousin, who is an NYPD detective! Yay!

      The manageing partner say’s we do NOT want him to loose his job, b/c his sexueal activity with me ocurred off the job and not on restrunt property, but he will NOT hesitate to call his cousin and they know what to do, the manageing partner says. I am very lucky the manageing partner know’s peeople important. I do not think the WC judge who I am freindly with could help to much here.

      Anyway, the manageing partner said it is going to cost him $37,500 to get the pool house fixed up, so this pretty much take’s away much chance for the new 53 foot BOAT unless the pool house is covered under his policy. I have to look at his policy b/f he calls the insurance company to see if their are any LOOP HOLE’S we can exploit! YAY!

      Does anyone in the hive know anything about prop-erty INSURANCE?

      He is goieing to go home tonight and find the policy and I have to look at it over the WEEKEND. FOOEY!

    • Totall agree on the senior men. Not sure what is up with that. But I will say that while they may not need to worry about it as much, I do tend to judge them for it. I had a boss once that signed emails with “thx” and wrote things like “k, c u l8r” and I totally thought less of him for not being able to just spell things.

  6. anonforthis :

    I recently received an email that started out with: “OMG I am SOOOOOO sorry!!!!! I totally forgot about this!!!!” This was someone new to our company and it did not look good (nor did it look good that she forgot about said thing).

  7. Blue Moon :

    This is actually something I often struggle with, since my job involves interacting with clients/corporate co-workers, as well as non-profit volunteers. I usually err on the side of professional (no !, emoticons, “thanks!” etc.), but occasionally I worry that it can seem “cold” to volunteers.

    Any thoughts?

    • I think it’s all about who you’re speaking with. I write very formally to clients and senior coworkers. On the other hand when I’m addressing vendors or other I may be giving direction to, I try to be a bit warmer with an exclamation mark or a “thanks!”

  8. Diana Barry :

    I always sign off with “Best” in emails to clients/outside people. With my boss, I use “Thanks” since I am often asking a question. My boss is very, very formal but warm at the same time, so will often use a phrase like “Many thanks, as always” when giving an assignment to me (via memo/email).

    I don’t use emoticons, multiple exclamation marks, or abbreviations like LOL, in work emails, except if I am emailing one of my friends or my DH from my work account.

  9. I routinely will end an email to a colleague with “Thanks!”. To me it just seems warmer, and a “Thanks.” seems kind of cold and overly-professional. I probably wouldn’t do it that way to someone I had never met or someone who was waaay senior to me, but to a partner that I know or a fellow associate, I would have no problem with it. Also, on the compliments, I prefer (as the one giving or getting the compliment) to say “Great job!”. It just seems “nicer” or something. Now I wonder if maybe I’m coming across as too young though (I’m 25, first year out of law school).

    • I wholeheartedly agree with the “Thanks!” vs. “Thanks.” The period makes it seem somehwhat harsh/cold. Otherwise though, I try not to use exclamation points. And if possible, I include my thanks at the end… i.e.:

      Thanks,

      Emm

    • I agree that “Thanks.” can come across as harsh. A non-exclamation-point phrase that I picked up from a client is “Thanks, [Jane].” To me, that comes across as serious but sincere.

  10. Can I have a Hive hug? A few weeks ago a leader came to me and said that he really wanted me for this job which would be a great opportunity for me, but I would never have applied for if not prompted. So I applied and interviewed, all with winks and nudges along the way. And then he comes in today and tell me that they picked someone else. Which I would totally be fine with if he hadn’t specifically told me he wanted me! So I probably dodged a bullet given how the whole thing went, but I’m just kind of stung and embarrassed, especially because a lot of people knew about it, given how open he was about wanting me. Barf.

    • ::hugs:: sorry to hear this. I had something similar happen once and know what you mean about feeling a little embarrassed as well as disappointed after getting hopes up. I hope you find something even better.

    • Hugs. Been there, learned my lesson to keep these things close.

    • Horrible! Here is a hug for you. It sounds like you have the right attitude–you do not want a job where this kind of mindf@ck is acceptable. But gah, to feel publicly humiliated? That said, I am sure your friends will have nothing but sympathy for you. You may feel humiliated, but they see it as you being screwed over.

    • Don’t be embarassed. Now lots of people in your organization know this leader thinks you’re great. The other candidate just happened to be better for this particular job.

    • So sorry that happened to you! This happened to me several years back, and I agree, it was a mix of humiliated and angry. And when it came down to why I wasn’t hired, it wasn’t anything they didn’t already know before they came and sought me out. It was almost like they wanted to say they got a good candidate pool and then hire the “good ol’ boy” out of a better pool that looked competitive. So bizarre.

      If its any consolation, it was indeed a blessing in disguise that it didn’t work out. Everything happens for a reason.

    • I’ve been there before and it sucks. I’m sorry and sending you hugs and a stiff drink of your choosing.

    • Bah. That happened to me once. It sucks. However, I got a much better opportunity later on, which I wouldn’t have if I’d gotten that gig, so in the end it was for the best. May it be so for you as well.

  11. long time lurker :

    From my law prospective, I feel there is an overuse of email generally. If I have to have a conversation where parts of how the discussion will go is dependent on “reading” someone, I do it in person or on the phone. MANY conversations fall into this category, i.e. a junior associate who is not exactly sure about an assignment…can read the partner’s reactions to certain questions and adjust following questions and behavior accordingly. A direct email setting a final position in negotiations has its uses, but usually you can accomplish more with a phone call (if your opposing counsel is at all reasonable, which of course is not always the case).

    Also it goes without saying don’t put anything in an email that you don’t want to be “out”. Can’t think of how many times stupid joking emails have ended up being star exhibits in litigation (I’m looking at you, financial industry). Not to mention embarrassing personal things that pop up when we download hard drives.

    • THIS! Email is taking over. I was offered a job (by email) Monday of last week. I picked up the phone and called the boss to negotiate. He told me he needed some time to think about what I was proposing and then responded in email. We have been negotiating the terms of the job (by email) for the past week and a half. Can we drag it out any longer? I blame email.

    • I think I can safely say that this lesson has now been learnt by the financial industry … at least until the top of the next cycle when we will all promptly forget useful history again.

      On the tendency to over-rely on email, I’ve found pretty much everyone coming up the senior ranks has had to unlearn their aversion to face time and phone calls, myself included.

      • WorkingMom :

        I have a love/hate relationship with email. I hate email because clients now feel that if they can send an email any time of day… I should respond right away. Regardless of the request, time of day, whether it’s a national holiday or a Sunday morning, etc. The general nature of email being so instant is a thorn in my side.

        However, at my office my VP has drilled into me to always send an email to document essentially everything. I cannot tell you how many times in my earlier years at this company I have been burned by a long conversation with a client on the phone reviewing a policy, pricing, customization, etc. Then later the client “forgets” about that 45 minute conversation and wants a service for free, or plays dumb about a policy, etc. So now – even after a conversation like that, I always send a follow up email to say, “Hi Jane, just to recap our conversation, we agreed on… etc.”

        I often will get emails from brokers or clients with super-casual writing which always shocks me. I had a broker once send me emails in text-speak, acronyms and all!

  12. I think the use of exclamation points completely depends on the purpose of the email. I’m an associate at a law firm, and I only use !’s when I’m having a more informal conversation. I try to write emails the way that I speak. I try to imagine how the conversation would go orally (not verbally, sorry, a pet peeve of mine). For example:

    “Hi Karen,
    Sorry to bother you so early today, but I need some help getting XXXX documents out. I should have put it on your radar yesterday, but I made a mistake and forgot. Please forgive me! If you have any time this morning to help, please let me know.”

    I also would use it in this situation:

    “Hi Karen,

    Thanks for all your help yesterday! Again, I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate your last-minute assistance.”

    But, to be fair, I am a very animated person when I speak, so I think that the people who know me around the office can piece together what I mean with my exclamation points.

    Also, I NEVER use them when I communicate with clients.

    • Diana Barry :

      Question – to whom would your first email be addressed? It seems too apologetic if addressed to someone whose job it is to help you (eg paralegal, assistant).

      • Agree- letters to servents should simply state what needs to be done, no human apologies necessary for your own mistake. They should have to expect to drop everything the moment you need them.

      • As one of those people whose job is to be helpful, I always really appreciate not being taken for granted. My time is valuable. It’s not billed at the same rate, sure, but that doesn’t mean I should just have to drop things and rush on something that someone else forgot with no apology.

        • I completely agree. I am a lawyer, but will apologize to my secretary when something I did or forgot to do has made her job harder. Of course she is expected to help me as part of her job, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t recognize my own mistakes. Sometimes this just makes the working relationship easier, which in the end is a benefit to me and my clients.

      • That specific example was targeted toward a paralegal. I’m a new attorney, under 30, in an office that places a very strong emphasis on respect for staff. Many of our paralegals and legal assistants (our nomenclature for secretary) have many many years of experience and know much more than I do about the job that I’m supposed to be doing. I figure that I should err on the side of treating them more like a peer rather than an assistant.

        It’s an interesting question though: how to handle interactions with staff when you’re a new attorney (especially when you’re a woman). I would appreciate any responses, because I’m definitely working on my approach.

        • Molly, I completely agree with your philosophy regarding being considerate to staff regarding their schedules and owning up when you do something that makes that staff member’s day more difficult than it should be.

          That said – be careful about apologizing by email. The paralegal may forward that apologetic email to a partner and say “Sorry I can’t get to your project today — Molly’s just given me another last-minute assignment.” The apology, on paper, really can make you look worse. Especially if that staff member has a few of these apologetic emails saved up.

          Unfortunately, I speak from experience. As a second- and third-year associate I worked on a very significant matter with a senior paralegal who had much more “equity” built up in the firm than I did. I apologized for slip-ups a few times by email. She sent those emails to her attorney friend on the Associate Committee and into my file they went.

          • Thanks! That’s very helpful. I’ve noticed that I’m often too apologetic in my interactions. For instance, instead of saying “excuse me” when I run into someone in the hall, I say “I’m sorry”. It’s a dumb habit that I’m trying to break.

          • I’m pretty polite and am in an environment where you thank support staff profusely for doing things for you, and I think you have too many sorries/my faults in there. If you must apologize, say it once, but I think it’s an interesting point about being careful about what you apologize for in email. You could always email the assignment and then call/stop by to say your apology and how much you appreciate the last minute help.

    • I agree with your exclamation mark usage.

      I write my email, then read it over in my head, then add exclamation marks as necessary. Sometimes it requires shifting around sentences. But emails can seem really cold if there are no exclamation marks.

  13. Tone in emails is something I work on and try to think about a lot. I have a lot of vendor relationships that are essentially built over email, with occasional phone calls and even more occasional in person meetings. I try and strike a professional but personal tone most of the time.

    I really hate short curt emails. My MIL always sends short, curt emails and I used to think she was mad at me all the time, when it’s really just her “online” demeanor (she’s the same way on facebook). On the way other hand of the spectrum, my mom sends long and highly descriptive emails (although these are all family/personal) that are quite ridiculous.

    My personal “rules”:

    One exclamation point per email
    For new emails that aren’t a reply, use the person’s name and some sort of salutation like “good morning”. The “good morning” typically gets the exclamation mark, but that might be annoying and something I might start adjusting.
    No one word answers – use full sentences, as long as I’m sitting at a computer. Blackberry emails get some leeway.
    No long paragraphs
    Georgia normal size font :)
    No “thanks” when I’m requesting something – they haven’t done anything yet.
    No passive language – state directly and clearly
    Sign “Regards,” then my signature
    Signature is only my name, title, company, cell number, office number, and business website. No quotes, logos, pictures, etc.

    Something I struggle with with people who I’m familiar with is having an urge to occasionally add a :).

    Somewhat related, I read somewhere that the Obama campaign did a lot of tracking of their fundraiser emails, and found that emails that had ugly formats (weird highlights, underlined words) were more effective than the pretty formats.

    • Meg Powers :

      I like the way you structure your emails. I send emails to clients all the time and I might steal some of it.

      I struggle with short, curt emails, too. I get them from my manager (probably because she’s very busy and she needs to send the email and move on to something else) but it always takes me a few minutes to realize that she’s not actually mad at me.

  14. Blogreader :

    “It’s best to have the conversation ORALLY [in person ] .”

    • Yes! “Verbal” means “in words,” as in, spoken OR written. I understand that the common usage has evolved on this, but I am totally with you on this Blogreader!

    • I will never forget the day when the partner I was working for walked into my office and corrected me on that very point. Never made that mistake again, and now always notice it when others do.

  15. Salutations :

    On a somewhat related note, what is the best opening to use in an e-mail? Many of the people I work with use “Hi John,” even with clients, but would it be better to just start out with “John,”…? Taking out the “hi” seems like a much harsher tone to me, but is it more professional?

    • I agree with just using “John,…” instead of “Hi John,..” I always think “Hi John” should have a period at the end, instead of a comma. I have no idea if that is proper or not.

  16. Lol, looks like someone is already solving this problem with a new punctuation mark: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/would-you-use-this-new-proposed-punctuation-mark

  17. To me, exclamation points in work emails look juvenile. It reminds me of notes passed in class in junior high. I never use them unless I am responding “Congratulations!” to someone announcing the birth of their son or daughter to the office by email.

  18. I’m in legal hiring, and was setting up an interview recently, and the candidate used one or two explanation points in her emails to me. I thought that was kind of odd — in my work world, I almost never see explanation points in emails. I didn’t hold it against her, but it was unusual and unnecessarily distracting. It seemed like the kind of thing career services should be telling students when they begin applying for jobs, especially in this competitive market.

  19. I recently hired a wedding photographer who is great and very nice, but WAY overdoes it with the smiley faces and exclamation points.

    And yes, her contract is in Comic Sans.

  20. Does anyone else have a problem with ellipses? I have multiple coworkers who will end every email with…

    I’m not sure what tone they are going for, but I read this as sarcastic, like they are saying “Thanks…” but thinking “Thanks…for nothing.”

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