The Three C’s of Emails

Don’t get lulled into believing that because it is email, mistakes can and will be excused. An email may be the first impression you make on a person, most notably when you reply online to a job posting. Your email represents you, and if your email creates a less than favorable first impression, changing that impression will be much more difficult than if you had gotten it right the first time. Follow the three C’s to make sure your emails represent you in the best possible way:

Clear. Clarity is important. Your message should be easy to understand, and not leave the recipient guessing or trying to figure out what you mean. Avoid humor or sarcasm, either of which can easily be misunderstood.


Concise. Hand-in-hand with being clear, your message also should be brief—two or three paragraphs should do it. The exception is if you embed your résumé in the email and it causes the body of the email to be longer. Still, your message preceding the résumé should be concise and to the point.

Correct. Proofread not only for spelling but also for grammar and for word choice. Whenever a recipient sees a misspelled word, poor grammar or incorrect word choice, the recipient’s focus falls on the mistake and not on the message. Mistakes in spelling or grammar can leave the recipient wondering if you are prone to making mistakes in your work, which then begs the question of whether you can be trusted to do the job you are applying for effectively. Once that “sloppy” or “careless” image is embedded in the prospective employer’s mind, changing it will be very difficult.

P.S. Last week I wrote about online applications for jobs. I commented that people should be sure to attach a copy of their résumé when they reply to a job posting. A better piece of advice is to embed your résumé and cover letter in the email so they don’t arrive as attachments, which a recipient may not open for concern that they contain a virus. That’s good advice from James.


Another reader reiterated the frustration applicants feel about companies that do not even send a generic response indicating an application has been received. It is the courteous thing to do in response to the effort a job applicant has made responding to a company’s request for applications. While I mentioned it in the article, I repeat it again here: Companies should at least let respondents know an application has been received.

If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected]

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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