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Etiquette at Work

Is it acceptable to send a signed thank-you letter by email?

Email|Print| Text size + By Peter Post
Globe Correspondent / November 18, 2007

Q. Is it acceptable to send a signed thank-you letter by email (as PDF file) after an interview?
S.A.M., Hartford

A. What’s your goal: to fulfill your obligation to send a thank you, or to stand out from your competition? Let’s start by examining whether a pdf is really better than a thank you in the body of an e-mail. In addition to opening the e-mail, the recipient now has to take the extra step of opening the pdf to get your thank you. If you go to the trouble of creating the letter, saving it as a pdf, and imbedding it in an e-mail, wouldn’t it be just as simple to print out the document, place it in an envelope, and send it through the mail? Now your thank-you stands out, rather than being hidden in an imbedded file within an e-mail that you can’t be sure the recipient either received or read. Even if it is read, it will promptly be deleted. The note sent through the mail, meanwhile, is opened and read, and then remains on his desk where it continues to remind him of you. Do you want to be deleted or remembered?

Q. Our new receptionist announces visitors by saying within earshot of the visitor, ‘‘There’s a ‘Joe’ from a ‘Smith Company’ here to see you.’’ It’s as if she’s saying he’s one of many Joe’s, at one of a million Smith Companies. Isn’t this poor etiquette, and is there some way I can show her what she’s doing wrong?
C.D., Clarkston, Mich.

A. Announcing a person with ‘‘There’s a Joe from a Smith Company here to see you’’ is awkward. Using the formula ‘‘ae’’ rather than ‘‘Joe’’ depersonalizes the individual, and that’s not the way to welcome someone visiting your workplace. Also, as you point out, using ‘‘from a Smith Company’’ rather than ‘‘from Smith Company’’ makes it seem as if his firm is one of many with the same name, rather than a specific and special company. ‘‘Joe from Smith Company is here to see you’’ would be a more welcoming — and accurate — way to announce a visitor.

You didn’t mention whether this person directly reports to you. If she does, you should discuss with her how she’s announcing people to the firm. If you want, you might also give her a script for announcing visitors and for answering the phone. If you are not her boss, proceed carefully. You can try speaking with her and suggesting a more professional approach, but don’t assume she’s going to embrace it. An alternative is to talk to your manager and let her bring it up with the receptionist’s manager.

MORE OFFICE MANNERS Listen to Peter's advice at boston.com/news/podcasts. E-mail questions about business etiquette to bizmanners@globe.com; fax to 617-929-3183; or mail to Etiquette at Work, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Readers whose questions are published will receive a copy of Peggy and Peter Post's book, "The Etiquette Advantage in Business."

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