Social Etiquette

This category contains 49 posts

Formal Email Writing Etiquette: Get Your Desired Results

We’ve talked about the general, informal email, which is not so tricky, especially when dealing with friends and close acquaintances. As we discussed in Email Etiquette: Know Your Audience, there are some simple rules to follow to keep your basic email messages on the safe side. However, the big, bad wolf of emails seems to be the Formal Email.  What a diva she is, requiring more thought and a much more structure. The formal emails can include messages that are addressed to an employer, an official at a school or college, an executive at a company, or a professional with whom you are not acquainted, amongst others. Yet, some of the same tips for basic emails still apply, with a few additional rules:

Opening Salutation

1.  Formally greet the person to whom you are writing. For example, try one of the following opening salutations: “Dear Mr. Rodriguez,” or “Good morning, Anna:” or “To Whom It May Concern:”


2. Identify yourself in the most relevant manner. You can choose to state who you are in relation the person or topic (i.e. a salesperson, customer, student, etc.). You can identify yourself or your interest by way of pertinent information, such as an account number, a job ID, an order number, etc. You can also tell the person your name here, but you will still have to sign off with your name at the end.

3. Concisely state the purpose of your email. Clearly and briefly summarize why you are contacting the person. You will have the opportunity to elaborate later in the email, so there is no need to be long winded at this juncture.

Body Paragraph(s)

4. State and explain the main points of your email in detail. Lay out all of the important elements and/or occurrences of your business, interest, issue, concern, or request. Paint a full picture for the other person. It is necessary for you to convey your thoughts and tell your story.

5. Be careful not to ramble or go off on tangents. Although you want to be thorough, you want to keep the person’s attention and help them to understand where you are coming from. Particularly, if you are sending a complaint, avoid including extra thoughts that are overly emotional, too personal, or unnecessarily insulting.


6. Express the number one goal you want to accomplish with this email, once again. If there is a key point you think might still be complicated or confusing, this is your chance to clarify it, briefly! Here are a few questions to consider: Who should take action? Which action do you want them to take? Will you play a role in this? Is there anything you are willing to do or offer? What outcome do you desire?

7. Provide your most reliable contact information. If you want a timely response, then you must give them a way to reach you directly. Choose a channel through which you know you will easily receive the person’s response, like a phone number that you have regular access to, a direct voicemail number you check frequently, or a mailing address. In some instances there is no need to provide additional forms of contact if it is understood that the other person will respond to the email address through which you are sending the message. In this case, providing your contact information means making sure your email address is visible.

8. Thank the person for his or her time, cooperation, assistance, or anything that he or she has already done. You also have the choice of thanking them in advance for whatever it is you anticipate or hope they will do. Here are two examples: 1) Thank you for your continued support. 2) Thank you in advance for resolving this issue.

Closing Salutation

9. Sign off with a respectful closing salutation, followed by your name. There are many options, so select the one that you feel is most fitting and that makes you feel most comfortable. Some examples are “Yours truly,” “Sincerely,” “Respectfully yours,” or “Best regards,”
(Note that the first word in your salutation is capitalized, but the second word is not.)

Before You Click Send!

10. Proofread and edit your email. Check for any confusing language, inaccuracy of facts, typos, grammatical or spelling errors, inaccuracy and misspelling of people’s names, spacing and formatting mishaps, incorrect punctuation, or automatic correction disasters. Also, make sure you have not inappropriately used all capital letters, which can look like you are shouting. Some of these might seem minor, but they vary in significance to different people and can be the deciding factor for whether or not you get your intended results.

These are a couple of examples of how to structure a formal email message. (Click on the email to enlarge):

Formal Email Sample 1:

Formal Email Sample 2:


Public Displays of Protocol – April 2012

As a communications professional and scholar who keeps an eye and an ear (just one of each) glued to the media, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to recognize the t.v. legends who passed on during the month of April.  I’d like to dedicate this Public Displays of Protocol to three men of media who exemplified dignity, class, and high ethical standards:  Gil Noble, Mike Wallace, and Dick Clark.


Dick Clark Photo Credit: Alan Light

On April 18th, we lost “America’s Oldest Teenager.”  Dick Clark, known to the younger generations as the cool older dude who made an appearance every New Year’s Eve, built a long-lived career of so much more.  His extensive work in show biz made him the most well recognized pop culture icon spanning several generations.  Mr. Clark was adored as the host of “American Bandstand,” TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes,” the “American Music Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” and countless other television and radio shows.  Always a vision of effortless sophistication, he dedicated his career to bringing young talent to the forefront as well as entertaining his youthful audience (regardless of age) in a respectable way.

Gil Noble – the journalist, the gentleman, the giant – whom I watched religiously each Sunday, departed on

Gil Noble Photo Credit: WABC-TV

April 5th.  I must admit that Mr. Noble’s passing touched me as though I lost a dear distant friend.  For as long as I could remember, he sat in my living room every week, educating my siblings and me on historical and current events, on people who were making a difference in the community, and on the ways every individual can improve the quality of life.  Mr. Noble dressed impeccably, spoke articulately and welcomed us into his realm on the television show “Like It Is,” which aired for 43 years.  He built his career as a journalist, bringing us fair and accurate news, and continued this practice as a host shining light on issues as well activism well into his later years.  He never faltered from his journalistic standards and he always kept the well-being and empowerment of his viewers in mind.

We lost more than one phenomenal journalist in the month of April.  The great Mike Wallace, best known for

Mike Wallace, 1957

his role as the legendary host of “60 Minutes” also died on April 5th.  He subscribed to the old school practice in which journalistic integrity really meant something.  His reputation stands tall on his lengthy track recorded of providing insightful, balanced investigative reporting and interviewing.  Mr. Wallace didn’t take it easy on his guests.  As a matter of fact, he developed a whole new style of tough interviewing techniques by which he dug out the information he knew his viewers tuned in to hear.  Yet, he remained a gentleman and did not make his work a personal attack on those who sat face-to-face with him.  He kept his guests honest and gave his audience what we needed.  What more could you ask?

These three men impacted us across cultures, age groups, and personal interests.  Their legacies will continue to serve as a strong, reliable foundation for the modern era of broadcast media.  For their excellence and nobility, I salute them again and again.

Little Lady Tips – 4/24/12

Those Pesky Plackets: What They Are and What to Do with Them












A placket is simply a slit in a blazer, shirt, skirt or jacket.  It can also be a pocket.  Sometimes new apparel has a stitch holding the slit together and that is referred to as a placket as well.  When you get an item with the big X-shape, that is a temporary stitch binding the placket.  Those are the ones you should remove so your garment flows nicely and you can have the freedom to move easily in it.  That’s it, remove the placket.

Networking: What’s in It for You? Success!

You get invited to an event: a wedding, a fraternity party, a business launch, a baseball game, an industry event, or even a high school dance.  Your number one goal should probably be to have a great time, but following closely behind is the goal of successfully networking.  (That’s right, you should have networking in mind as early as high school, and maybe sooner.)  It’s with this second goal that so many of us miss the mark.  Where do we go wrong?

For one thing, some of us get confused about why we network in the first place. Some people are doing it because some successful person told them to, many do it with only their newest business venture in mind, and others network because they are trying to get ahead. None of these reasons are wrong or bad, but they are not optimal as overarching networking philosophies.

When you set out to make connections, it’s best to come from a place of genuine interest in what others are pursuing, creating or developing.  See it more for its possibilities of a meeting of the minds, the exchange of ideas, successful collaborations, gaining a golfing/dancing/basketball/fishing/shopping buddy, or the start of a lasting friendship.  If you make an acquaintance with someone with whom you would like to keep in touch, make note (on the back of their business card or in your smartphone) of how you may be able to work together in the near or distant future.  That means consider how you may be of assistance to them, along with how they may serve as a good resource to you.  It is an exchange, not a way to get the “hook-up” or build a one-sided relationship.

How do you build this type of relationship?  To start, confidently introduce yourself as who you are and who you are aspiring to become.  In conversation, be open to listening to what they have to say, ask questions related to what they seem passionate about, and share with them some of your interests and passions.  Exchange information and after the event, contact the person within two to three days to remind them who you are and how you met.  Invite the person out to grab a bite to eat and use it as an opportunity to learn more about them.  A great tip I once received for maintaining what you’ve started is to reach out to the person every few months and on holidays, invite them out if you have an extra ticket to something you think they would enjoy, and keep them updated on your major developments or changes (new contact information, getting into college, a new job or promotion, getting married, having a baby, etc.).  This way you keep each other in the loop and atop the mind.

So you see, it more than taking someone’s business card or storing a Twitter handle in your phone and tucking it away until you need something from that person.  It is about making the connection meaningful for both or all parties involved.  Furthermore, it is about growing your network to grow your career, but also yourself.

Tag, You’re It!

Take the time to remove the tags and stickers from your clothing before you wear them.  I know it’s still in style for guys to keep the sticker on their fitted caps. (And even in that case, displaying the sticker to validate the quality and authenticity of the item starts to look a bit tacky.)  If you are keeping on your tags in order to return the article of clothing, that’s a whole other issue we will need to address.  For everyone else, this is a friendly reminder that when you forget to take off the tags it looks like you didn’t put as much effort into your appearance and self presentation.  A great way to remember is by taking one more look at yourself in a full length mirror before leaving for the day.

Royal Flush Wins Again: Public Restroom Etiquette

The public restroom experience can be truly horrific. Unidentified brown spots, wet substances, funky smells, lurking weirdos can be a part of the experience at any point.  If only we would all do our part to maintain a somewhat usable bathroom environment, then maybe we could “go” without puking. Following these ten tips could change our lives. Seriously.

1.  Wipe down the sink counter if you wet it while washing your hands (or anything else).
2. If you urinate on the seat, then wipe off the residue.
3. Gentlemen, don’t go peeping across urinals. It makes others uncomfortable.
4. Ladies, dispose of sanitary items neatly and completely.
5. If the restroom is mostly empty don’t plop down in the stall right next an already occupied stall. Give people their space.
6. Don’t discuss sensitive material or talk badly about people in the restroom. You never know who’s listening from the stall.
7. Flush! Please flush.
8. Wash your hands. Even if you don’t think you got anything on them, just wash them for hygienic peace of mind.
9. Discard of paper towels in the trash receptacle, not the toilet or the floor.
10. Most importantly, if you own or manage a public restroom, then clean or have it cleaned regularly based on the amount of traffic it gets.

Wouldn’t we all be in a happier place if we had sparkling clean, flowery scented bathroom visits? …Or at least, if we didn’t step in yellow puddles? Let’s make it happen!

Socking It to You

Photo Credit: Arvind Balaraman

When dressing for an event, an interview or for work, socks can get overlooked as an important accessory to complement an outfit.  Gentlemen, always wear trouser socks or dress socks with dress shoes, suit shoes, or tuxedo shoes.  It’s never acceptable to wear gym socks or tube socks, even if they are black ….even if you didn’t do laundry this week.  It’s better to purchase a pair of trouser socks on the way than to show up in tube socks.  Why do I emphasize this?  I once had a boyfriend who went on an interview with a major law firm in a dapper suit, looking the part.  The partner of the firm pulled up in a Ferrari.  When my boyfriend at the time sat down in the low seat his pant legs shot up and he was embarrassed out of his mind that his black, linty gym socks were all you could see.  He worried about it for half of the interview.  Avoid the embarrassment – Invest in a variety of socks.




Little Lady Tips – 4/5/12


Public Displays of Protocol – March 2012

Reflecting on this month, the prejudices we hold against others are on display …and right now it’s looking ugly. The most important lessons in etiquette and, even more importantly, in humanity are building positive views of oneself and broadening one’s views of others. They go hand in hand. In order to respect another human being for who they are, you must first work on how you view your own character and self worth. If one feels less than worthy, it’s easy to feed off negative stereotypes of others hoping that will make one feel better about oneself.

Lindsay Lohan


Whether you’re looking down your nose at Lindsay Lohan for her public conduct and run-ins with the law,




Tiger Woods


or scoffing at Tiger Wood’s last win because you disapprove of his infidelity,






Trayvon Martin Poster Source: Dondaicon


or judging the teenager walking down the street wearing a hoodie, we must realize that it is our own insecurities at the root of our narrow points of view.



Once we can admit the role we play in perpetuating stereotypes and reinforcing prejudiced acts, then we can decide to heal, grow and empower ourselves and our world. Then we can learn to value others’ lives and stop the proverbial and literal death of our children, our hope, our future. So let us move forward with positive, loving thoughts of ourselves and one another, and build from here.