- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

Why it’s time to ditch email etiquette

7th February, 2023

Why it’s time to ditch email etiquette

A couple of years ago Good Housekeeping printed a list of the Weirdest Etiquette Advice From The Past 100 Years.


It includes such corkers as:


1910 – don’t play with your babies until they’re six months old, in case you spoil them.

1920 – keep ignoring your child. Never hug or kiss them, and leave them in their crib as much as possible to build strong character.

1940s – never separate the condiments. If you’re passing someone the salt, you MUST pass the pepper too (naturally).

1960s – only cough into your left hand as your right one is your ‘social hand’ i.e. the one you shake hands with (ok, I’ll give them this one.)


But this weird stuff is exactly what I think of when I hear the word ‘etiquette’. Outdated, stuffy, fusty advice we no longer need. Like how to address the Viscountess when you bump into her at the debutante’s ball.


So I rail against the term ‘email etiquette’ too.


It assumes all we need to do is follow a set of precise rules to become the perfect emailer.


‘Keep your tone professional’, the email etiquette articles cry. ‘Never use emojis’ and ‘use a formal sign-off.’


Others offer more helpful advice like ‘don’t reply all, ‘use bcc wisely’ and ‘avoid the “Sent from my phone” caveat’.


But it certainly isn’t the full story.


An example: one of my clients, Liz, sends emails littered with emojis, exclamation marks and the odd typo. (The email etiquette brigade would be clutching at their pearls.)


But I love getting Liz’s emails because they sound just like her. They’re so warm and funny. And they stand out from the other identikit emails in my inbox.


Warmth, empathy, understanding and personality count for so much too.


Being ourselves is just as important as being correct, if we want to build relationships.


As copywriter Laura Belgray so wonderfully puts it, ‘Perfection doesn’t create connection.’


And I couldn’t agree more. Stick that in your 1960s pipe and smoke it.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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