Email: The Yin and the Yang of it!

Email Etiquette

By Wanda Parker-Smith, University Recruiting Program Manager

It doesn’t matter if you are a Millennial or a Baby Boomer — email etiquette reminders are always good to have in your back pocket. Like it or not, email is still the most commonly used communication in today’s workplace. I’ve seen it all in my tenure at Amtrak.

Heck, I remember when we didn’t even have email! Millennials, can you imagine?! Maybe that’s why I still believe in certain situations, a face-to-face or telephone conversation may be the best communication style. That’s lesson number one for my Millennial colleagues. Lesson number one for my Baby Boomer colleagues is sometimes email is safer and smarter, and sometimes you just have to adjust your communication style depending on with whom you are communicating.

I guess it’s the yin and the yang of communicating today. Without further adieu, below are a few tips from me on how to effectively communicate with your colleagues via email:


  • Identify why you are writing to the recipient(s) in the subject line.
  • Think about what you want to say before typing your message.
  • Keep your email message short and concise.
  • An email message is a reflection of you. Always read over your email message before hitting the “send” button.
  • Check your email often and respond to the sender in a timely fashion. If you need additional time to research an issue, acknowledge the email and let the sender know when you will have an answer.
  • Think about whether “emoticons” are appropriate when communicating with an executive in your organization.
  • Prepare an automatic response to senders when you will be absent from the office. Identify a contact person or provide your cell number if the sender needs immediate attention (good customer service skills).
  • Use Instant Message (IM) appropriately in the workplace. IM messages are designed to be short and to the point. If the receiver is unavailable to have a conversation, refrain from sending repetitive messages.


  • Hit the “respond to all” button if recipients don’t need to read your message.
  • Discipline or fire an employee via email.
  • Send an email when you are angry. Remember, emails can be saved and forwarded to other individuals in your organization.
  • Forward jokes, chain letters or other inappropriate emails to your colleagues.
  • Type your message in all “capital” letters (this is identified as yelling or shouting).
  • Use “jargon” (i.e., RRB) if the recipients are not familiar with your company’s terminology.

Bottom line…. if you have to think too hard before you send an email then perhaps a face-to-face or telephone conversation may be your best bet.  Just say’ in.