Communications Etiquette

Last week, I received an email from someone asking me to call them. Frankly, I was confused. If he wanted to reach me by phone, why didn’t he call? More important to me, I didn’t know what he really wanted. “Please call me at 512-xxx-xxxx” was almost the entire message. (I do know the source of his information about me. My phone number was listed right next to my email address.)


It is polite to respond in the way you were contacted. If the person calls you, then you should respond with a phone call. If they send you a direct message on Twitter, then you should DM them back.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Regardless of how you communicate with someone, give them all the facts. Think of it like the first paragraph of a well-written news story: with the six Ws.

Who, What, When, Where, Why, and hoW

It is your responsibility, according to good etiquette, to give them complete information.

  • Who you are
  • What you need/want/have
  • Where they can reach you
  • When you’ll be available, or When your deadline is
  • Why it’s important
  • hoW they can best deliver

The Phone and VoiceMail

Leave a Message

Calling and hanging up without leaving a message is rude. I know of one person who doesn’t return these calls, and also blocks them from calling again! I’m pretty sure I inadvertently did this same thing to a family member. Someone from a new number in an area code I didn’t recognize called and didn’t leave a message three times in less than ten minutes. I instinctively blocked the caller as spam. Later, I realized it might have been family.

Name/Number, Six Ws, Name/Number again

If you are calling and leaving a voicemail, start with your name and number. Then, give the other Ws information that is the reason you are calling them. Finally, at the end, repeat your name/number again. With caller ID this might be a little overkill, but remember that people check voicemail when driving. Repeating information for them makes it easier on them. It might even make them safer drivers if they aren’t struggling to figure out what you said.

We Are Professionals, Not Teenagers

As the texting generation starts to enter adulthood, we see these courtesies become less common. Remember that you need to act and behave like a professional. Then, once you get to know someone, you can become more casual.

Even among friends, the courtesies are important. If you are calling for anyting other than “just to catch up”, let your friend know. They’ll probably even call you back more quickly!