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My colleague sends emails with odd spacing. For example, no line breaks between salutation and the first paragraph.

I'd love to send him a reference so he knows how to lay out formal/business emails better, but I can't find one. I'd also like to know myself!

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

11

There are no formal standards that enforce how you write business emails. There are however a lot of articles on the Internet that talk about email etiquette, which could be the closest things you'll encounter on this topic.

Examples of articles:

Caveat with Email Etiquette

Unfortunately knowing the proper etiquette does not always make you a effective communicator which should be more of an issue. For some types of personalities; being all too formal and/or wordy may become detrimental for your communication.

Manager/Career Tools have several podcast episodes that discuss personality types (relating to the DISC personality assessment model) and how to respond effectively on email. You'll be surprised how people with certain tendencies want their emails; e.g. some want it short and to the point while some want it as a rant with lots of smileys and highlighting colors.

Being a more effective communicator is better than slavishly following email etiquette. However if you do value proper formatting of emails, send your colleague a sample email (just don't always expect him to follow it).

... or just tell him nicely that he should space the email appropriately because it is driving you crazy.

  • 1
    Being a more effective communicator is better than slavishly following email etiquette +1000000 – eggyal Jul 24 '12 at 9:48
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Do not bring it up.

No matter how much one's personal style may clash with others, it's not a good idea to ask others to change due to this.

If you are a co-worker or colleague you could consider asking their manager (in private) - but be aware that in all such cases you will really need to be able to prove that it is an issue. The argument will need to be about a specific thing or event that affected the customer or the product specifically because of how the email was formatted. As you can probably imagine, this is pretty hard to do. The manager would also (reasonably) expect to see several examples to prove that this is a 'pattern' that needs to be addressed, not just one or two cases. This sets the bar even higher as you can imagine.

It's the mark of a professional to be able to overlook everyone's personal foibles and differences and still be able to work with them. It's not easy but with practice and determination it's a worthy goal.

  • But putting salution on the same line is not even a foible, its just quicker. – NimChimpsky Jul 24 '12 at 13:24
  • Ah thanks. It actually doesn't really bug me that much. He's my friend. I never mentioned it to him, because, it's not such a big deal, but when I see emails from him I secretly cringe a little. I didn't say anything because I didn't know if I was even correct in my etiquette. I've looked at the other references in my chain, and I think I am right, but my colleague has moved on now. Maybe I'll bring it up with him over a beer one day. Thanks! – Ev. Aug 20 '13 at 7:07
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Strongly depends on relationship...

I do bring this up when mentoring others - whether I'm the boss or it's a peer situation, but it's much easier to bring it up gently, and if you don't have a formal advisory relationship and aren't asked for advice, it may be best to skip. If you hear the guy complaining that people don't respond well to his emails, it's a different story.

If, however, you can't make out what he's writing or effectively do your job with the communication you receive from him --- different story! But I'm guessing that if salutations blended onto content is the only problem, this is not a big one, it's a 5 second hiccup and you move on...

Trick is - there is no standard, and it highly depends on form factor. When someone's writing from a traditional keyboard, they write very differently than if they are using a blackberry with their thumbs - if your company's communication mediums are mixed, you have to accept that format is going to get pretty muddy.

If I addressed it at all, it would be from the point of view of being effective. Is his message clear and easy to read? If yes, then move on. If no, then focus on that whether text format changes would help.

5

I wouldn't do that.

What do you care how someone else formats their e-mails ? Why do you think your way is the correct way, its purely subjective. I personally have completely removed salutations, and try and get as much info into the subject line before even starting the email, which is more often than not itself blank.

I don't think worrying about a colleagues formatting of e-mail to yourself is a particular productive pastime.

If they are customer facing, well thats a bit different - but thats not the question.

  • 2
    +1 for not getting concerned with other people's email style. I would add that the best way one can encourage good email style is to make sure one's own emails are particularly effective. Often, good style gets emulated. – Angelo Jul 24 '12 at 13:50

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