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How to avoid e-mail disasters Add to ...

Siri Agrell: Is there any way in an e-mail to signify that you are just joking? If you say something sarcastic or funny and you want to make sure it's received in the spirit you intended, will a smiley or winky face suffice? Is there a "Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not a raging bigot" emoticon?

Judith Kallos: I love the sense of humor! ;-) Yes, use a winky -- but in business use those sparingly as emoticons are more for personal e-mail. That said, if you are talking about a touchy subject and want to ensure the other side knows you are joking a winky will get that across for you.

Susan Sherman from Newmarket Canada writes: The Globe and Mail's article focuses too much on being careful who you send the message to. Whenever you compose an email, you have to assume that it could be read by the last person in the world you would want to read it. Even if you check that you haven't clicked 'reply to all', and check that the person you are writing about isn't on the 'cc' list, you are an idiot if you think the email won't eventually get to them. The person you send it to may forward it, and the next person may also forward it, and after a couple of times the message may move on to another topic and people forget what was said in the email at the bottom. So the bottom line is not to ever write anything unkind, unflattering or compromising in an email to anyone. Period.

Rebecca Dube: Ms. Kallos, can you comment on this advice?

Judith Kallos: That is sound advice! I tell clients to never e-mail anything they wouldn't want their mother to read! The language used in this situation was totally not professional and should not have been used in the first place. The not-paying-attention part just brought the issue to light! This is where e-mail training is so very important so that these type of situations and issues can be discussed and avoided. Even though one should never forward a privately sent e-mail to others or post private e-mail publicly without permission to do so (copyright infringement) people still do. If you count on that you'll never go wrong!

RM, Toronto: I have a friend who emails me incessantly at work just to chat. She's a great friend and I'd hate to hurt her feelings, but I just don't have time for senseless chatter when I'm on the job. I've tried simply not replying, but she doesn't get the point and her emails keep coming. How do I tell her to lay off?

Judith Kallos: Simply let her know that you do not have time for personal chats while at work because of your heavy work load and that you would appreciate her understanding. Also let her know when you are available after hours so she knows the door is still open, so to speak. Using technology is so much about thinking how your actions are going to affect the person on the other side -- not just about what you want to do at any given moment. Your friend isn't thinking about the fact that you are at work and have responsibilities there -- a kind reminder of that should do the trick!

TW, Toronto: I find it really off-putting when a project manager at a company I've given work to sends me emails with improper spelling and grammar. I know it's irrelevant to the project whether or not they can spell. Still, I believe a certain level of professionalism, and attention to detail, affects your professional image, even over email. What are your thoughts? Should I be so irked by this?

Judith Kallos: Would you send out a letter with improper spelling and grammar on business letterhead? No! The same goes for e-mails. When it comes to business e-mails, using proper grammar and spelling is part of giving a professional impression. To not do so lends to the perception of being lazy and/or uneducated.

E-mail programs come with spell checkers and if the program doesn't have one, getting a spell checker plug-in to add to the software is easy and free. I agree; there is no excuse for such things in business e-mails.

Apparently there isn't an e-mail policy in place where these issues are discussed and stressed as mandatory. E-mailing in this manner not only reflects negatively on the sender but the business as well.

Maureen, Toronto: In the world of online dating, breaking up (or telling someone you are no longer interested) by e-mail seems fair, even if you have had a few face-to-face encounters. It all started over email, after all. What do you think?

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