Email Code of Ethics
As a means of business communication, email is popular because of its quick response times. However, it is also notorious for its misuse, owing to its popularity as a personal means of communication as well. The rules for business emails and personal emails are vastly different, yet many times the line between the two becomes blurred, and many inappropriate emails find their way into company inboxes.
The following guidelines suggest ways for employees to draft company emails, whether for internal or external company communications.
Be brief. Email readers have little time to spend reading multiple pages. Their time is valuable, so use concise, clear-cut language. List your key points, but avoid actual bullets, as some email systems may not be able to read them. Instead, use numbers or asterisks to set them apart.
Be professional. Do not share inappropriate material such as jokes and cartoons, inflammatory and/or libelous communication, or messages of a personal nature. Email is a company resource, and falls under the guidelines in our Use of Company Resources section of the Handbook of Operating Procedures. Your email is not private; the company has the right to monitor employees’ email accounts for proper conduct. Misuse of company resources can lead to disciplinary action.
In addition, avoid slang or texting jargon. IMHO and LMAO are not appropriate acronyms for business communication.
Also, be sure to proofread your emails. Check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Do not rely on your computer’s spell check, as it is not always accurate.
Be mindful of tone. When using the written word, it is often difficult to convey the correct “tone of voice.” Avoid sarcasm, or light-hearted/good-natured expressions. Your reader may misinterpret these comments. Avoid, too, the use of emoticons, or “smileys,” those keyboard characters, such as : ) or : ( that are often used in personal communications to suggest tone.
Be courteous. Even though you have taken every precaution to have your email seen only by its intended recipient, accidents can and do occur, and sometimes the email will end up in the wrong mailbox. Avoid disparaging comments about fellow employees or customers. Never put in an email what you would not say in that person’s presence.
Be mindful of your audience. When communicating with persons in other countries, be sure to educate yourself on things that may be offensive in other cultures. Some things that are acceptable in America may not be acceptable in other countries, and you do not want to jeopardize any business relationships because you have not done your research.