In your business communication courses, do you ever wonder how much emphasis you should be placing on writing emails? In “The Snowball of Emails We Deal With’: CCing in Multinational Companies,” Ifigeneia Machili of University of Macedonia, Greece; Jo Angouri of Warwick University, UK; and Nigel Harwood of University of Sheffield, UK confirm that email is the current most dominant business communication genre.
Emails are not, however, alone on center stage. They interweave with video conferences, phone calls, texts, webinars, and more. Also, they function interdependently with previous and subsequent emails, reports, face-to-face conversations, social media, local and remote meetings, and phone calls. Further, emails must be fluid and flexible as they develop credibility, build/maintain social and organizational relationships, and be sensitive to formality, politeness, credibility, accountability, self-projection, and multiple audiences.
In their analysis of email chains in an international organization, the researchers found that emails play a pivotal role in managing interpersonal relations and operational matters. Through discourse-based interviews, the researchers learned how employees strategically highlighted their professional achievements and owned or denied responsibility for decisions throughout the email chains. In addition to transmitting information, emails employed CCing (carbon copying) and formality to help (1) establish accountability, (2) contribute to decision-making, and (3) enable self-projection.
The results validate the need for business communication instructors to include intensive email instruction. Students must realize that emails are not simple one-and-done messages, but rather critical communication exchanges that must be sensitive to a host of subtle contextual factors. Showing real-world email chains can help students become aware of the contextual twists and turns they will encounter on the job. Using scenarios and simulations, instructors can require students to write emails at different points in an email chain, developing appropriate strategy and content and deciding whom to CC.
You can read their entire article here. Learn other tips about creating effective emails in Chapter 3 of our textbook Writing and Speaking for Business.
Source: Business and Professional Communication Quarterly
Image by William Iven
We're Bill Baker and Matt Baker, and we hope these posts will help you more effectively teach business communication. If you like what you read, please consider reviewing our business communication textbook.