Business Communication Etiquette

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Businessman with tablet

Advances in technology have made it easier to connect with anyone at anytime.  This has certainly made working more convenient and efficient, but it comes with an increased risk of breaching professional etiquette.  As communication becomes more quick and casual, being mindful of basic business etiquette will help reinforce a positive perception of yourself.

Business Insider recently summarized some basic rules for modern communication etiquette, taken from Barbara Pachter’s book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette:


  • Don’t answer your phone when meeting with others, or you’re telling the person you’re meeting with that whoever is on the phone is more important.
  • Don’t place your phone on the table when meeting with others, otherwise it will look like you’re ready to connect with someone else.
  • Let the other person know when you have them on speakerphone so they’re aware that the conversation may not be private.


  • Use a professional email address, preferably one that includes your name and not old nicknames that may be inappropriate for the workplace.
  • Think twice before hitting ‘Reply All’.  Ask yourself, do you really want everyone on the list to receive your reply?
  • Be careful with humor.  What you find funny, others might find offensive.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Instant Messaging

  • Remember that bad news is best communicated in person — or, if that’s not possible, then over email where you have the opportunity to explain fully.
  • Keep conversations brief.  If the conversation is particularly involved or requires much thought, a phone call may be preferred.


  • Be careful with abbreviations and other shorthand.  While common, you want your professional communications to remain professional regardless of the medium.


  • Look into your camera when you’re speaking, not at the person on your screen.  It may feel more natural to look at the person on your screen directly, but this will mean that they’ll see your eyes cast downwards instead of forwards.

Even the physical spaces that we work in have changed over time.  Where private offices or cubicles offered varying levels of privacy, the more open concept designs of today can encourage interruption.  However, being mindful and respectful of other people’s time means approaching your colleague within their sight lines,  announcing your presence with an “excuse me”, and waiting for an invitation to engage them in conversation.  Calling or emailing in advance to schedule a time to meet is never a bad idea, either.

The ubiquity of electronic devices and our always connected culture offers many advantages for busy professionals.  However, that makes it all the more important to conduct yourself professionally at all times and respecting business communication etiquette.

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