In some cases, having the “paper trail” of email can be a good thing. However, there are certain things you shouldn’t put in writing, as they can be taken the wrong way – or worse, lead to your termination.

Some might say the unwritten rules of email communication are common sense, but the fact is not everyone is aware of all these “email taboos.”

Below are ten tips to help you avoid making crucial email mistakes. Whether you’re new to the business world or a seasoned veteran, these tips will help you stay out of trouble:

  1. Never criticize a person in a way that could be perceived as a personal attack. (E.g., Telling someone they are a jerk – or worse – for what they have written to you.)
  2. Do not state your private opinions on a person or make generalizations about a group of people in an email. Especially avoid topics related to religion, politics, sexual orientation, or ethnic background.
  3. Do not state in writing how you feel about the email you received. If a message makes you upset or angry, keep that to yourself. Be like Switzerland, and always adopt a neutral tone in emails.
  4. If you think that what you are writing could at some point or in some context be embarrassing or slightly inappropriate, then it likely is – so don’t write it.
  5. Keep your email content business-oriented. Don’t share information about your personal life via email unless you would be okay with others knowing the information. Emails are, essentially, public.
  6. Discussing your coworkers and their performance is not acceptable, even if you are being complimentary. The only exception is when you are the person’s manager and are having an email conversation with HR or your own boss.
  7. Do not speculate about your company or your coworkers. Your inferences can easily be misunderstood, even if your speculations have good intentions.
  8. Jokes should also be avoided. What you think is funny can easily be offensive to others.
  9. Don’t make unsolicited suggestions over email. If someone has explicitly asked for your feedback over email, you can share it. Otherwise, keep your opinions to yourself.
  10. Don’t ever tell a person you’re going to quit your job or are thinking about leaving. This information could end up in your boss’s hands. If you’re planning on resigning, your boss should always be the first to know.

Kathleen E. Murphy is CEO of Market Me Too.

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