Tone and Etiquette in Writing Emails

In the 3rd blog post in this email writing series, we looked at the importance of being polite and personable when writing emails.

Now let’s practice writing emails with the right tone. Remember, you have to obviously get what you want, and you cannot bore or annoy the person you are emailing, but you also must abide by etiquette.  Suppose you run a small interior design consulting business.  Here is the first draft of a complaint letter that you plan on sending to an online seller of printers.

Rewrite the email using a more polite and professional tone. Then compare your message with our suggested message.  There are eight possible corrections you could make.

To: Harry From: Linda Mathews Sent: April 1 Subject: Terrible service

Mr. Wallace,

I’m writing this email because I’m really PISSED OFF. Four weeks ago I purchased online a PW 4170 color printer from your company. Can’t you people get anything right?

First, it took a hell of a long time for me to get it – four weeks to be exact. When the order finally arrived, it wasn’t even the right printer. Holy cow! I got a PW4150 for goodness sake. I paid $499.00 for the PW4170, while the model you sent costs $100.00 less.

I’m returning the printer to you. You better send me the model that I ordered or I’ll never do business with your company again. I demand that you pay for the shipping cost.

Yours unhappily,

Linda International Color Montreal, Canada 514 – 290 0558


Whew! While it sometimes feels good to vent your feelings, sending an email like that would rarely get a favorable response. People have pride, and ego, and it’s really important to not smash that. Some of the best confidence artists and manipulators make you feel great as they take from you. I don’t recommend you take advantage of people, but you should definitely do your best to be polite. You’ll get what you want.

Suggested email

To: Harry From: Linda Mathews Sent: April 1 Subject: 1. Wrong printer received

2. Dear Mr. Wallace,

I’m writing in reference to a PW4170 color printer that I ordered online from your company on March 1. (3. Give a context for your letter.) When the order arrived, the box contained a PW4150 printer. I understand that such mistakes can happen. However, I was not satisfied with the delay in delivery.  (4. Politely explain the problem.)

While both printers are all-in-one printers, the PW4170 is wireless network ready and is quicker than the other printer. (5. Be clear in your explanation and avoid any aggressive language.)

I’m attaching a copy of my original online order for your reference.

I would like to return the PW4150 printer and exchange it for the PW4170 I originally ordered. Please email or fax me a prepaid return authorization label or reimburse me for the return shipping cost.  (6. State your request politely and clearly.)

I look forward to quicker delivery of the PW4170 printer.  (7. Use a professional tone in concluding.)

Yours sincerely, (8. Be courteous in closing).

Linda Mathews International Color Montreal, Canada 514 – 290 0558

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