Though e-mail is certainly convenient, and it can be used to communicate in a professional manner, it has its limitations. In certain situations, a polished letter or personalized, handwritten note may be more appropriate and could, in fact, support your overall goal of communicating courtesy to others.

Given that we’re so used to dashing off a quick e-mail, you may on occasion wonder if it actually is the most effective and professional means of sending your message to others… or, if you should take the time to send a more formal note or letter. If this is true for you, consider these guidelines provided in Philip C. Kolin’s Successful Writing at Work: Concise Edition, Fourth Edition:

  • Send a formal letter rather than an email when you apply for a job and for any follow-up communication.
  • When you make a new business contact or welcome a new client, write a formal letter, not an email. International readers, in particular, will expect this.
  • Always acknowledge a business gift or courtesy by sending a handwritten thank-you note or formal letter rather than dashing off an email.
  • Never send an email in place of a letter for any type of legal notification or financial statement. (Kolin, 84-85)


Reference: Kolin, Philip. C. 2015. Successful Writing at Work: Concise Edition, 4th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.


What are your suggestions for using e-mail in a professional manner? Share them in the comments below.