In today’s business world, electronic communication, such as e-mails, have replaced the telephone call or letter writing as the primary method of messaging. Disputes – legal, political or otherwise – are now decided on the basis of e-mails discovered later once conflict begins. Yet despite the importance of e-mail writing, too few appreciate its significance until it is too late.

Savvy business people can protect themselves by remembering these simple lessons “your Momma should have taught you:”

  1. Think before pressing “Send”: Too often – while in the press of business – folks rush and reply without calmly thinking through a response or its ramifications. Other times senders can reply unprofessionally while upset or angry. Emotional or “reflex” e-mails seldom reflect well on senders later. It is far better to think through a calm deliberative response, particularly after emotions cool, before pressing “send.”
  2. Avoid Cynicism and Sarcasm: Unlike verbal communication, e-mails do not necessarily reflect a tone of voice or perspective. Humor or sarcasm, that might be well received by colleagues around the water cooler, seldom reads well in an e-mail printed months or years later, and placed under your nose in a deposition or trial.
  3. Don’t Write Anything You Do Not Want Your Momma to Read: E-mails never go away. You can never be assured they will only be read by your intended recipient(s). Therefore, do not put anything in an e-mail that you would not be proud to have your Momma (or a Judge or Jury) read later.

If you remember these simple lessons – particularly the last one – you will be in a better position to avoid legal loss and embarrassment later.