Chapter 16: Text Messages and Emails

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Identify five strategies for using netiquette while communicating online
  • Explain the four guidelines for texting is a business environment
  • Recognize key elements of a strong professional email

Key Terms and Concepts

  • netiquette
  • texting
  • chat applications
  • email

Digital Communication

Photo #1: Team working together

Text messaging, emailing, and posting on social media in a professional context requires that you be familiar with netiquette, or proper etiquette for using the internet. We have all heard the news stories about people who have been fired and companies that have been boycotted for making offensive or inappropriate social media posts. People have even gone to prison for illegal use of private messaging.  The digital world may seem like a free-for-all, “wild wild west” with no clear rules or regulations; however, this is clearly a dangerous perspective for a professional to take, as the consequences for breaking tacit rules, expectations, and guidelines for professional communications can be very costly.

The way that you represent yourself in writing carries significant weight. Writing in an online environment requires tact, skill, and an awareness that what you write may be there for a very long time and may be seen by people you never considered as your intended audience. From text messages to memos to letters, from business proposals to press releases, your written business communication represents you and your company:  your goal is to make it clear, concise, constructive, and professional.

We create personal pages, post messages, and interact via online technologies as a normal part of our careers, but how we conduct ourselves can leave a lasting image, literally. The photograph you posted on your Instagram page or Twitter feed may have been seen by your potential employer, or that insensitive remark in a Facebook post may come back to haunt you later.

Guidelines for Communicating Online

Following several guidelines for online postings, as detailed below, can help you avoid embarrassment later:

  • Know your context
    • Introduce yourself
    • Avoid assumptions about your readers; remember that culture influences communication style and practices
    • Familiarize yourself with policies on Acceptable Use of IT Resources at your organization.
  • Remember the human
    • Remember there is a person behind the words; ask for clarification before making judgment
    • Check your tone before you publish; avoid jokes, sarcasm, and irony as these can often be misinterpreted and get “lost in translation” in the online environment
    • Respond to people using their names
    • Remember that culture, age, and gender can play a part in how people communicate
    • Remain authentic and expect the same of others
    • Remember that people may not reply immediately. People participate in different ways, some just by reading the communication rather than jumping into it.
  • Recognize that text is permanent
    • Be judicious and diplomatic; what you say online may be difficult or even impossible to retract later.
    • Consider your responsibility to the group and to the working environment
    • Agree on ground rules for text communication (formal or informal; seek clarification whenever needed) if you are working collaboratively
  • Avoid flaming:  research before you react
    • Accept and forgive mistakes
    • Consider your responsibility to the group and to the working environment
    • Seek clarification before reacting; what you heard is not always what was said
    • Ask your supervisor for guidance.*
  • Respect privacy and original ideas
    • Quote the original author if you are responding with a specific point made by someone else
    • Ask the author of an email for permission before forwarding the communication.

* Sometimes, online behaviour can appear so disrespectful and even hostile that it requires attention and follow up. In this case, let your supervisor know right away so that the right resources can be called upon to help.

For further information on netiquette, check out the following links:


Whatever digital device you use, written communication in the form of brief messages, or texting, has become a common way to connect. This is particularly true with team chat applications such as Slack and Microsoft Teams which are becoming increasingly popular with companies as a means for employees to quickly communicate with each other.

On these platforms, short exchanges are common as they are a convenient way to stay connected with others when talking on the phone, or sending an email, would be cumbersome. If you need a quick, brief answer right away, texting is often the best choice.

However, it’s also important to be mindful of the company culture and what is deemed “appropriate” on these platforms. For example, when people text their friends and family, they often send gifs as a way to communicate their reactions. Should you also do this at your company? It depends. Some companies are okay with it, some are not. Even if they are okay with you using gifs, there may rules around the types of gifs that are sent. Pay attention to how others are communicating in these spaces and use that as a guide for your own communication style.

In summary, texting is not useful for long or complicated messages. When deciding whether a text or email is better, careful consideration should be given to the audience. Wouldn’t it seem strange is someone sent you a text that was like an email?

Watch the short video below:

Link to Original Video:

When texting, always consider your audience and your company, and choose words, terms, or abbreviations that will deliver your message appropriately and effectively.

Guidelines for Effective Business Texting

If your work situation allows or requires you to communicate via text messages, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Know your recipient:  “? % dsct” may be an understandable way to ask a close associate what the proper discount is to offer a certain customer, but if you are writing a text to your boss, it might be wiser to write, “what % discount does Murray get on $1K order?”
  • Anticipate unintentional misinterpretation:  texting often uses symbols and codes to represent thoughts, ideas, and emotions. Given the complexity of communication, and the useful but limited tool of texting, be aware of its limitation and prevent misinterpretation with brief messages.
  • Use appropriately:  contacting someone too frequently can border on harassment. Texting is a tool. Use it when appropriate but don’t abuse it.
  • Don’t text and drive:  research shows that the likelihood of an accident increases dramatically if the driver is texting behind the wheel (“Deadly distraction,” 2009). Being in an accident while conducting company business would reflect poorly on your judgment as well as on your employer.


Photo #2: Email Platform

Email is familiar to most students and workers. In business, it has largely replaced print hard copy letters for external (outside the company) correspondence, and in many cases, it has taken the place of memos for internal (within the company) communication (Guffey, 2008).

Email can be very useful for messages that have slightly more content than a text message, but it is still best used for fairly brief messages. Many businesses use automated emails to acknowledge communications from the public, or to remind associates that periodic reports or payments are due. You may also be assigned to “populate” a form email in which standard paragraphs are used but you choose from a menu of sentences to make the wording suitable for a particular transaction.

Emails may be informal in personal contexts, but business communication requires attention to detail, awareness that your email reflects you and your company, and a professional tone so that it may be forwarded to any third party if needed. Email often serves to exchange information within organizations. Although email may have an informal feel, remember that when used for business, it needs to convey professionalism and respect. Never write or send anything that you wouldn’t want read in public or in front of your company president.

As with all writing, professional communications require attention to the specific writing context, and it may surprise you that even elements of form can indicate a writer’s strong understanding of audience and purpose. The principles explained here apply to the educational context as well; use them when communicating with your instructors and classroom peers.

Guidelines for Effective Business Emails

Open with a proper salutation:  proper salutations demonstrate respect and avoid mix-ups in case a message is accidentally sent to the wrong recipient. For example, use a salutation like “Dear Ms. X” (external) or “Hi Barry” (internal).

Include a clear, brief, and specific subject line:  this helps the recipient understand the essence of the message. For example, “Proposal attached” or “Electrical specs for project Y.”

Close with a signature:  identify yourself by creating a signature block that automatically contains your name and business contact information.

Avoid abbreviations:  an email is not a text message, and the audience may not find your wit cause to ROTFLOL (roll on the floor laughing out loud).

Be brief:  omit unnecessary words.

Use a good format:  divide your message into brief paragraphs for ease of reading. A good email should get to the point and conclude in three small paragraphs or less.

Reread, revise, and review:  catch and correct spelling and grammar mistakes before you press “send.” It will take more time and effort to undo the problems caused by a hasty, poorly written email than to take the time to get it right the first time.

Reply promptly:  watch out for an emotional response—never reply in anger—but make a habit of replying to all emails within twenty-four hours, even if only to say that you will provide the requested information in forty-eight or seventy-two hours.

Use “Reply All” sparingly:  do not send your reply to everyone who received the initial email unless your message absolutely needs to be read by the entire group.

Avoid using all caps:  capital letters are used on the Internet to communicate emphatic emotion or yelling and are considered rude.

Test links:  if you include a link, test it to make sure it is working.

Email ahead of time if you are going to attach large files:  audio and visual files are often quite large; be careful to avoid exceeding the recipient’s mailbox limit or triggering the spam filter.

Give feedback or follow up:  if you don’t get a response in twenty-four hours, email or call. Spam filters may have intercepted your message, so your recipient may never have received it.

Tip:  add the address of the recipient last to avoid sending prematurely.  This will give you time to do a last review of what you’ve written, make sure links work, make sure you’ve added the attachment, etc., before adding the sender’s address and hitting send.

The sample email below demonstrates the principles listed above.

From: Steve Jobs <>

To: Human Resources Division <>

Date: September 12, 2021

Subject: Safe Zone Training


Dear Colleagues:

Please consider signing up for the next available Safe Zone workshop offered by the College. As you know, our department is working toward increasing the number of Safe Zone volunteers in our area, and I hope several of you may be available for the next workshop scheduled for Friday, October 9.

For more information on the Safe Zone program, please visit


Please let me know if you will attend.


Steve Jobs

CEO Apple Computing

Key Takeaways

  • All companies use digital communication in some capacity. As a result, the way you represent yourself in digital spaces will have an impact—either positive or negative—on how others view you professionally. This is why it’s important that you are familiar with the principles of netiquette which suggest how to communicate in these spaces.
  • The core principles of netiquette include:
    1. Know your context
    2. Remember the human
    3. Recognize that text is permanent
    4. Avoid flaming: research before you react
    5. Respect privacy and original ideas
  • Texting is often best when communicating small amounts of information.  Email, on the other hand, is best when a message has more content. However, brevity is still important, as is attention to detail. Even if you are communicating with colleagues, a poorly formatted, error-heavy email can reflect poorly on your credibility as a professional.


This chapter is adapted from “Technical Writing Essentials” by Suzan Last (on BCcampus). It is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License,

Photo #1 by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Photo #2 by Stephen Phillips on Unsplash


Akhtar, A., & Ward, M. (2020, September 4). Fifteen email etiquette rules every professional should know. Business Insider. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from

Anthony Weiner sexting scandals. (2011, June 2). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from

Deadly distraction: Texting while driving should be banned. (2009, September 22). Chron.

Guffey, M. E. (2008). Essentials of business communication (7th ed.). Thomson/Wadsworth.

Raza, H. (2019, August 7). Why is email etiquette important! LinkedIn.

The seven biggest social media fails of 2017. (2018, January 17). Entrepreneur.

Workopolis. (2018, March 7). Fourteen Canadians who were fired for social media posts. Workopolis Blog.



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Effective Professional Communication: A Rhetorical Approach Copyright © 2021 by Rebekah Bennetch; Corey Owen; and Zachary Keesey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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