Best Practices For E-mail Communications

As 2014 comes to a close, there is no better time to remind your workforce about the perils of e-mails.  In any litigation arising after workplace incidents or operational failures, many of the exhibits are often e-mails between workers or an e-mail from the worker to an outside third party.  The consequences can range from reputational harm to lost sales to public embarrassment to legal liability.

Key questions to ask before hitting send:

  • Can this be misinterpreted?
  • Did I choose the right tone?
  • Is the subject matter appropriate?
  • Is “Reply All” really necessary?
  • Do you know who the recipients are for sure?

Best practices:

  • Assume that any e-mail will appear on the front page of the New York Times
  • Labeling an e-mail “privileged” or “confidential” does not make it privileged
  • Avoid inflammatory language
  • Remember that e-mail does not convey tone
  • Use proper capitalization (ALL CAPS comes across as shouting)
  • Keep e-mails brief
  • Consider summarizing prior messages rather than forwarding a growing chain
  • Use appropriate subject lines that convey the purpose of the message
  • Do not engage in disagreements over e-mail. Pick up the phone.
  • Include contact information in a signature block
  • Remember that company e-mail is considered company property and can be collected, produced, and admitted in a court
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