Choose the Appropriate Electronic Communication Method

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Choose the Appropriate Electronic Communication Method

Choose the Appropriate Electronic Communication Method

There are two commonly used methods of electronic communication in business: email and instant messaging (often referred to as IM). In this lesson, we will look at some appropriate as well as inappropriate uses of both these methods in a business setting.


Emails can be used both internally and externally in business. Generally speaking, an internal email will be less formal than one sent to someone outside the business.

Email can be customized to look like a standard memo or business letter. Tone becomes very important in an email communication because the reader cannot see your face or judge the tone by body language. The following is an example of an appropriate internal email message.

Appropriate Internal Email Message

Aggressive and formal tone in an internal email message will send the wrong message to the reader. Here is an example of the same email message using passive voice, a formal greeting, and a closing that is not friendly. A reader who receives this email may even feel a bit threatened.

Example of Email with Aggressive Tone

Corporate Culture

When considering the use of email for communicating in the business setting, take into account the culture of the organization and how it views email. Many organizations have policies and procedures in place for dealing appropriately with email. Some common procedures are:

  1. Respond to email messages within a specific period of time, usually 24-48 hours. Although this may seem like a long time, especially if you have your email open all day long, some jobs rely on email more heavily than others and it is not easy to respond immediately to messages. If nothing else, the professional way to handle an email message is to respond in a timely manner acknowledging receipt of the message and letting the sender know you are working on any requests that were made in the email.
  2. When responding to email messages, respond only to those who actually require a response. For example, it is not necessary to send a response to someone who has just provided you with information like the example messages above. You would not respond to Margo just to tell her you had no more agenda items.
  3. Be circumspect in the use of CC (carbon copy). Only copy those who need to be copied in the message. Do not use CC to simply alert others about the content of the email unless that content directly affects them or their jobs.
  4. Use BCC (blind carbon copy) correctly. BCC is also something that should be used carefully and only if the corporate culture considers it appropriate.

Instant Messaging (IM)

Instant Messaging is rapidly becoming more popular in business environments because it affords instant communication (even faster than email) and the ability to condense and tightly focus the message.

It is important to understand the use of IM tools as well as to know how to compose an appropriate IM chat. The IM function allows for real-time chatting that can be, and often is, monitored and stored by the company.

Following are examples of two instant messages, each one asking for the same kind of information. This one is appropriate for the business environment: IM Examples

This one is highly unprofessional: Highly Unprofessional IM Example.

The writer in the second message is obviously using very casual language and informal acronyms that may or may not be understood by the recipient.

When writing an IM in a business environment the rules of professionalism and etiquette apply:

  1. Check your message.
    1. Is it simple or complex?
    2. How soon do you need a response?
    3. Consider if email would be more appropriate.
  2. Have your message ready to type or even already typed. Don't make your recipient wait for you.
  3. Begin an IM conversation by asking if the recipient is busy and then be brief and to the point.
  4. Do not have more than one IM conversation going at the same time.
  5. Use professional business language to convey the proper tone.
    1. Inappropriate: "Golleee, what numbskull thought this up?"
    2. Appropriate: "Who thought of this idea? It is interesting."
  6. Use the tools in the program to alert your colleagues when you are unavailable or busy.
  7. End the IM conversation courteously by letting your colleague know the conversation is over.
    1. Example ending: "Thanks for your help. I will be gone for the next hour or so."
    2. Or "Ok, thanks, I will be working on this later today. Bye."