A site visitor writes:
What is the proper etiquette for an address block in an email? My boss is rather electronically illiterate and would like all letters sent by email to have a formal address block at the top. My coworkers and I feel this wastes space and looks strange.
You and your coworkers are correct. Not that it wastes space rather that a physical address does not apply to electronic mail. And, yes, it will look strange.
Email is “electronic mail” — meaning it is not going to a physical address. Therefore negating the need for a formal address block as displayed on paper stationary.
Emails go to Email Addresses — Not Physical Addresses
The fact that you stated “letters” is telling. Not all communications are conducive to email and email should not replace all off-line communications.
Address blocks as displayed in formal off-line letters have never been used at the top of emails. You are sending to the email address as noted in the To: field. That’s your email “address block”. That email address is not in of itself tied to a physical off-line location. If your boss feels an address is necessary and required, it is best to put those communications on official business letterhead that is sent via snail-mail.
Another option is to have the letterhead communication saved as a PDF and attach it to an email. This is very common practice with the introductory email noting that the formal document is attached.
Certain types of communications require sending on business letterhead with an actual signature (and address block). Things that comes to mind are formal notices, signature required delivery, legal inquiries — communications where you need a paper trail.
Email and off-line letterhead are two entirely different communications tools that need to be used based on discretion.
No Need for an Address Block
Including an address block where one is not needed can cause the impression that we are not tech savvy. Although all business communications need to be be approached with a professional tone, some criteria simply does not apply to email as it would for off-line business letterhead. This is one of those issues. When the tone, intent and topic of the communications is more apropos to an off-line letter on official company letterhead, then that’s how you should proceed.
Now how do you relay this to your boss? For starters, you can send them a link to this page letting them know they can email me with any additional questions or concerns.
Or, send them to my article on Business Email Etiquette Basics so they are aware of the important issues that do need to be considered when emailing. An email block is not one of them.
Have a question you would like to see me cover here on my blog? Let me know here!