A Canadian reader raised a valuable question about an email behavior that seems unprofessional to him. The questionable business writing practice is sending emails in which the subject states the whole, or nearly the whole, message. Here are two examples:
Subject: Can you please order toner for the printer?
[Followed by nothing in the body of the message.]
Subject: Esther Willard has arrived
[Body:] and is waiting in Conference Room B.
Although he objects to this slapdash use of email, my Canadian neighbor wonders whether he is just being picky.
What do you think? Is this acceptable email etiquette?
To judge whether a behavior is acceptable, I imagine myself in the reader’s place and consider whether it works for the reader. In the first instance, if I were the person responsible for ordering toner, I would find the email subject "Can you please order toner for the printer?" perfectly acceptable–if it were followed by a thank you and the writer’s name in the body of the message.
And if I were waiting for Esther Willard, I would be grateful for the email blip announcing her arrival–especially if I were on the telephone and therefore could not get a phone call.
These uses–much like Instant Messaging–seem practical and quite reasonable to me. They take subject line efficiency to a new level, and I like that. In classes, I recommend that people use the abbreviation EOM at the end of a one-line message. EOM stands for "end of message." Of course, your reader must understand the abbreviation, as I am reminded by my accountant friends, who live with End of Month reporting.
Plenty of email habits make me shriek, but these blips are not among them. As long as the condensed messages suit the circumstances, their speed and efficiency can help me be more efficient too.
What is your view?
Other search spellings: etiquitte, etequitte, etiqueete, etiquite, wirting, writng, emial.