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The six types of e-mail

1. Requesting—one of the most dangerous types of email. Make sure it’s an appropriate request, something you really need, easily understood so the person doesn’t waste time doing something you didn’t really want. Ask for one thing or if several, then related things. When requesting, make the request stand out as one question in its own paragraph, or if several related questions, number or asterisk them.

2. Responding--If you can’t fill a request, be honest and fast. Don’t leave the requester with a ‘maybe’ that’s never going to happen. If a request is sent to many people, let the most vested people respond. You may add later, “I agree” or just not respond. It’s appropriate to use the out-of-office assistant when you’re busy, “I’m in the office but working on a project and may not be able to respond before next week.” You may use phrases such as “On the run” or “Racing to a meeting” or “More to follow” to express you would reply if you could.

3. Informing—sharing information quickly and efficiently. Make it clear you don’t expect a response. You can note FYI (for your information).

4. Thanking—email can be an appropriate method to thank people for small things. It can be the beginning to thank someone for bigger things; continue with a phone call or better yet, a hand-written note.

5. Apologizing—face-to-face or another more personable way is more appropriate. When you apologize, do it in the active voice. “I made a mistake” rather than “Mistakes were made.”

6. Connecting—to strengthen or confirm relationships. This may be the most essential email of all.

All posts about email
, many based on 'Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home' by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, published April 2007
Subject: Your professionalism shows in e-mail
Think before you send. Send email you would like to receive.
The human touch, alternatives to email
Email emotions -- duplicity and anger including sarcasm, loaded phrases and rhetorical questions
The strengths and weaknesses of email
Work email and personal email are quite different in two ways


I look forward to your posts on this topic, Lynette. E-mail is a work in progress and its users will determine its form and function. I'm glad to see the recognition of different types/functions. We must recognize the patterns before we can perfect them. Thanks for sharing your research of the literature.