A sweet client of mine wrote a note in an email that I thought was so, well, thoughtful. She asked if I could do something in a certain way, but that if I couldn’t do it in that way, “No was an OK answer.” I’m still smiling to myself.

We get along well. We trust each other’s opinions and expertise. We’re OK saying no. We’re also good at communicating our thoughts.

Proper email etiquette is an art.

Email can be an accidentally very direct medium of communication. If someone writes, “Could you do it that way?” does that mean that I should research for seven hours to see if it’s possible? Or if I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to just say no? Or somewhere in the middle? Or make my best judgement and offer an alternative, a middle ground that might work best function-wise and cost-wise?

Could you do it that way? 

How do you read into it?

  • Please do it that way. I know all of the other ways and I don’t want them. 
  • I have no idea of the difficulty of other options and I don’t care, just do it that way.
  • Or is there another way? Do you have any suggestions? I’m open to them. I like this way, but maybe you have another way?
  • Is it possible to do it that way? I’m just curious.

Even this simple phrase, in one email from one client in one day and it could be interpreted in many ways. How do you word your questions? How well do you communicate with your clients? Colleagues? Friends!?

Without proper etiquette, email communication can get ... prickly.

Without proper etiquette, email communication can get … prickly.