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Responding to Emails and Texts Appropriately

Email and texting have become critical parts of many jobs, so users need to use them carefully.  Here are some tips on how to ensure communication through these tools remain professional and helpful. 

For email

  • Proofread. All forms of communication, email included, reflect on the sender and the city overall. Misspellings, grammatical errors and formatting problems are easy ways for an email to undermine credibility. Read over an email for mistakes before sending.
  • State the purpose clearly and concisely. This includes a short subject line and a to-the-point email body. Senders should clearly identify themselves as needed. 
  • Use professional language. A respectful tone and carefully-considered language can help prevent misunderstandings, even as more casual email language has become the norm. Municipal officials and staff need to remember that work emails and texts count as public records according to the SC Freedom of Information Act. Messages are disclosable following a FOIA request, with some narrowly drawn limitations. 
  • Pay attention to formatting. Stick to commonplace fonts like Arial or Calibri, rather than unusual or distracting fonts. Avoid using background colors, textures or images. Don’t use excessive bolding or italics, and avoid writing in all capital letters.
  • Use appropriate greetings and closers. Senders should make the greeting appropriate for their relationship with the recipients. A “Dear Mr./Ms. … “ construction will often be too formal, and a more simple “Hello” or “Hi” may be more applicable. Appropriate email closers can be “Thanks,” “Regards,” or something similar followed by the sender’s name. Standardizing automatic email signatures municipality-wide with a name, title, contact information and possibly the city logo can boost professionalism.

For texting

The rules for professional texting have some similarity to the rules for professional emailing — the texts need to be clear, concise and state the purpose plainly, especially since misunderstandings are even easier with texting than email channels. 

  • Keep texts extremely short. If the message cannot be short, it should probably be an email or a phone call. 
  • Make it time-sensitive. Texts work best for things like updating others on the time or place of a meeting, or conveying information so important that it could not wait until the next time that recipients are at their computer. 
  • Send texts only to established contacts. In most cases, texting should be reserved for those with whom the sender has an existing business relationship. 
  • Pay attention to timing. Generally, if the hour would be inappropriate for a phone call, it would be inappropriate for a text as well. 
  • Avoid texting during meetings. 

Posting on the Municipal Association’s Listserves Correctly

The Municipal Association of SC offers listserves for different officials and staff members, with specific listserves for all the affiliate associations, and others for planning and zoning officials, city managers and administrators, and public information officers. Through them, users can connect with colleagues across the state, asking questions and learning about best practices. They can also search through past discussion threads, set up poll questions and share documents. 

Listserve etiquette is similar to email etiquette – be concise, use a descriptive subject line. There are some communication elements unique to the listserves, however. Users should keep in mind that those posting will have different degrees of knowledge and experience, and users shouldn’t always assume that professional jargon and acronyms will be familiar to their audience. Also, the listserve platform does not automatically specify each user’s municipality, so setting up a listserve signature with a name and municipality is important. 
Learn more about the listserves online.