Thank-You Emails

Mary’s question: “Is it always appropriate to send a ‘thank you’ email as a response to any email providing information? I am receiving more and more of these. It seems to me that email senders could set up automatic receipt notices if they wanted to be sure that their emails were received.”

BizWritingTip response: I did a survey just over a year ago regarding people’s pet peeves when it comes to emails. I was surprised so many people complained about thank-you emails. It seems when people are having a busy day, they don’t want to waste their time opening non-essential messages.

However, if you don’t send a thank you how will the senders know you received the information? I don’t recommend receipt notices. When I conduct an email-writing workshop, most participants claim they dislike the receipt request. They feel the senders are checking up on them; many receivers hit the “no” button (don’t tell the sender I have read this) just out of irritation.

I recommend a practice used by many organizations in both the public and private sectors: Insert the words “thank you” in the subject line in front of the original wording. Then place one of the following abbreviations at the end of the subject, END, EOM (end of message) or NT (no text).

Example (subject lines)
Your original email: Required: Logistic Requirements for Writing Workshop
Receiver’s response: RE: Logistic Requirements for Writing Workshop
Your return email: Thank you – Logistic Requirements for Writing Workshop – END

There is no need for you to add anything else to the body of the email. The receiver can read your thank you in the subject line and then quickly delete or file the message.

Some of you may be wondering what would happen if the reader does not understand END, EOM, or NT.  Well they might go ahead and open the message.  But they will know the next time.

Note: I am not saying  every provision of information requires a thank you. This is just an effective way to do it, if you wish to thank the receiver but have nothing else to add to the message.

Text Shorthand in Emails

Robert’s question: “We are having a debate in our office as to whether it is acceptable to use ‘r’ for ‘are’ and other similar shortcuts when sending emails internally.”

BizWritingTip response:  Emails are a standard form of business communication, and they should be treated the same as any business document. People expect to read them the same way as they would read the morning newspaper.

The letter “r” for “are,” and other short cuts such as BTW for by the way, are considered text messaging short hand. Please don’t use this shorthand in a business email – even though it is to a colleague. It is considered disrespectful. Save your text shorthand for chat rooms, text messages, and instant messaging.

I often compare writing styles to clothing. When you write a lengthy report, you are in formal attire – a tuxedo or ball gown. When you write a letter or short report, you are wearing standard business attire. Emails are dress down Fridays – but no jeans. Think golf attire. Instant and text messaging are your bathing suits.

All forms of writing and dress are appropriate at the proper place and time. Just as you would never wear a tuxedo to a pool party, you would never wear a bathing suit to the golf course.

Word Choice – Organize or Organise

Gail’s question: “It is becoming more difficult to remember the correct Canadian spelling of words, especially since Microsoft software only references American grammar and spelling.  For example, I would spell “organisation” with an ‘s.’ Is this correct?”

BizWritingTip response: My favourite reference books for Canadian spelling are The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Both books claim that organize is spelled with a “z.”  This is also the American spelling.

Organise and organize are both accepted in British spelling.  However, a 2004 UK survey stated that 60% of the respondents favoured the –ise ending.

If you want more information on the differences between Canadian, British and American spelling, check out the earlier BizWritingTip Blog: How should I spell it?

By the way, you might want to ask your IT department how to set up a Canadian English dictionary in your version of Word.

Email Tip – Out-of-Office Messages

Gillian’s question: “I am wondering about including the reason for your absence in an out-of-office message if it is of a personal nature other than vacation. Do you require a reason such as a death in the family, medical or maternity leave?  Is it fair or acceptable to say ‘… for personal reasons …’?”

BizWritingTip response: There are no specific rules regarding out-of-office replies. However, I don’t believe in using personal information in generic business emails. The people you work with directly will most likely know why you are away anyway. And as Voltaire said, “The secret of being tiresome is in telling everything.”

In addition, you never know who will end up reading your notices. (Thieves have been known to use personal information gained in auto-replies and to cross reference it to target empty houses.)

Here are two out-of-office replies that I consider professional.


Thank you for your message. I am out of the office until Monday, January 18. In my absence, please contact name, phone number and email address.

I am sorry I cannot respond to you immediately, but I am out of the office from January 5 to January 16. I will review your message upon my return. If you need immediate assistance, please contact name, phone number and email address.

Do Not

  1. Make jokes or say “I am probably by the pool drinking a pina colada while you are reading this.”
  2. Use asterisks, extra punctuation, or text messaging short hand (r instead of are). They are not appropriate and probably do not meet your corporate standards.

Example (incorrect)

………………… on holidays in Panama until January 30, 2011. 🙂 🙂 🙂

****************** need help *********** call Pam at 416-214-5677.

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