Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

12 Excellent Email Tips

email Raise your hand if you consider email to be a “new” technology.

Okay, everyone with your arms up are to proceed directly to the IBM Selectric Room, where you will be flogged with floppy disks, pummeled with data punch cards and laughed at by an Apple Lisa.

Afterwards you will get a demonstration of this miraculous new facsimile device that can teleport a written document all the way across the world.

Pardon my sarcasm.

What prompted all this was an article I just read that offered risk management advice to law firms that use email and other so-called “new” technology tools.

No, the piece was not a joke. And no, it did not date back to the era of big hair and Breakfast Club. It was current and came from California, of all places. The home of Silicon Valley. Out of compassion I will not identify the author or source.

And yet. There is something to be said for treating office management resources as shiny, new toys straight out of the box. That way, we might continue to use them with discretion and care.

Mistakes happen when we start taking things we’ve grown accustomed to – email, for instance – for granted. We get sloppy and careless. Before we know it we’re hitting “Reply to all” with reckless abandon and sending jokes and photos that might well be our Waterloo.

12 Excellent E-Mail Tips

Following are a few tips for prudent and polite emails.

  1. Be concise. Brevity is the soul of wit – and it is safer than wordiness. Don’t use email for lengthy analysis and complex advice. Save that for a sit-down conference.
  2. Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. A missing word or misplaced comma can change the meaning of a sentence.
  3. Make it clear that replying to an unsolicited email does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
  4. Use a Notice of Confidentiality. Add disclaimers (for spam, to unsubscribe) as appropriate.
  5. Direct the email to a specific source. “To Whom it May Concern” or “To The Whole Gang” is not good.
  6. Beware replying too quickly. Especially in the heat of emotion. Better to save your reply in draft form, sleep on it, then see how it reads in the morning.
  7. Be kind to readers. Avoid large chunks of text and convoluted syntax. Use plain English and simple, direct sentences. Bullet points are great.
  8. Go easy on abbreviations. And emoticons. And slang. And ALL CAPS.
  9. Be careful what you put in the Re line. Unwanted eyes might be intrigued enough to open the message and begin reading.
  10. Go easy on attachments. Also with links.
  11. Do not copy or forward a message without permission. Especially chain letters.
  12. Don’t send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Send him an email at, phone 919-619-2441.

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About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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