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How to Keep Courtesy in Email Conversations

Avoid one line replies in your emails.

Part and parcel of effective email communications is the ability to communicate with clarity. This includes making sure that the desired tone is consistently set as the conversation continues.

What tends to happen is after the first initial back and forth, our efforts change. The 5 Essentials of Every Business Email are not the 5 essentials of only the first email in a conversation. Subsequently, these basics are abandoned in lieu of one or two-line statements, questions, or comments.

Avoid One Line Replies

Without a greeting and closing your email’s tone is then more abrupt and demanding. Questions appear as challenges, one-liners as sarcastic statements. Without the basics, you lose control of the conversation.

I experience this daily as clients ask me for information. Their initial emails are the epitome of courtesy and attention to detail. Then when they are not comfortable with the repy or are confused about what they need to do next, here comes the one-liner reply.

What am I supposed to do with this?
Why does it take so much time to implement?
Do what you need to do and report back.
Please take care of this ASAP.

On the other hand, imagine the above one-liners with a little extra effort and courtesy…

Hey, Dave:

What am I supposed to do with this? I need a little hand-holding — can you help me out?

Appreciate your help!

Hello, Mary:

Why does it take so much time to implement? I have no idea how this works and would love to learn more. Can we schedule a time to discuss this?

Thank you,

Hey, Sally:

Thank you for bringing this to my attention! Do what you need to do to get this resolved and report back to me, okay?


Hello, April:

Can you please take care of this ASAP? I’m completely in over my head right now and would appreciate it if you could jump in. Let me know if this works for you too.


Can you see the difference? Which version do you think will help to foster ongoing productive working relationships?

Make the Extra Effort

In addition, the one-line reply rarely reflects gratitude for the earlier email’s information or guidance. Instead, these types of messages reflect frustration or annoyance with the situation at hand. When challenged by the topic at hand, do not let your emotions show your unwillingness at that point to make the effort to be a courteous communicator.

Always make the effort to be courteous — regardless if you are frustrated, challenged, annoyed, or confused.

Judith / BusinessEmailEtiquette.com

In short, for ongoing email conversations, it behooves both sides to consistently implement the basics and make sure they continue to include clarity and courtesy in each and every email. This approach allows you to nurture relationships which lends to the perception that you are professional communicator.

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