Ask Kathy: E-Mail Tips

Without doubt email is a standard, accepted form of business communication. Real estate is no exception. Frankly, it is hard to imagine conducting business without email. However, for all of its benefits also brings a full complement of issues and concerns. Below you will find 12 tips and a number of “best practices” that include practical recommendations for effective and cautious use of emails in your business communications:

1. Emails are forever: Once sent e-mails are stored on your hard drive; simply deleting the e-mail does not permanently erase it. Only specific software designed to clean hard drives can remove e-mail permanently. By the way, keep in mind, once you send an email to a recipient their hard drives are storing your e-mails too!

2. Emails are often forwarded: You must not assume that your e-mail will stop with the person to whom it was sent. It’s safer to accept that your e-mail may at some point be forwarded.

3. Emails can’t be retrieved: Read the e-mail carefully before hitting the “Send” button. While there may be a recall function, even the quickest fingers can’t guarantee success. Might as well face it, once it’s gone — it’s gone.

4. Most emails are subject to legal discovery: Trial attorneys routinely subpoena e-mail records because e-mails are business records that can be used in litigation. So, the e-mail you sent that may have included snide or inappropriate remarks about clients, other parties or affiliated service providers can be discovered and used against you. The same is true when you are communicating with respect to specific property or transaction related issues. Do not alter your high standards!

Email communications between an attorney and his / her client regarding legal matters may be protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege. Such communications should be identified accordingly.

5. Light-of-Day Test: Never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to see projected on six-foot high screen in a courtroom. Refer to number 4, above.

6. Check the “To” and “CC” lines before you send: It is far too easy to send e-mail to the wrong person(s) when using global address books. Verify all recipients before hitting “Send.” Slow down!

7. “Reply” vs. “Reply to All”: If you receive an e-mail sent to you and other recipients and you want to respond to the sender only, be careful not to hit “Reply to All.” Keep in mind there may be a “BCC.” Hitting “Reply to All” sends your reply or remark to all recipients. This can lead to embarrassment, and often to other more serious woes.

8. Be cautious when “Forwarding” emails: There are times you may want to forward an email to another person. Stop! Think! Scroll down to view any previous strings (threads / streams) and be certain there are no confidential attachments. Often the preceding string of e-mails contains confidential, embarrassing or even legally significant information that is not intended for others. Instead, consider copying and pasting only the part that you want to forward.

Another tip for consideration: Thoughtfully consider the appropriateness of “Forwarding” jokes or chain letters. Not everyone will share your sense of humor. Remember the old adage; “avoid sex, politics and religion in the context of business relationship.” And think twice before you distribute information you cannot or have not verified!

9. Subject” field: Be certain to include an appropriate subject for your emails; do not leave the field blank. The recipient should have a clear idea of the nature of your correspondence when they look at the “Subject.” When you are engaging in a series of discussions, should the “Subject” change, be sure to alter the field accordingly.

10. “Attachments”: As mentioned in number 8 above, extreme care should be used when sending “Attachments;” determining whether or not it is appropriate to distribute the information is only one piece of the puzzle. You should also use care when naming an “Attachment,” whatever you name it will be visible in the subject line of the e-mail.

11. Be professional: Emails are often prepared in a casual, friendly or off-hand tone. Not a wise idea! Use your professional skills when writing emails. Proper grammar, spelling, syntax, and vocabulary will paint a picture of your ability; the recipient can readily assess your thoroughness and attention to detail. Best practice: Read the email 3 times before sending.

12. Slow down: Because we are often busy and feeling overwhelmed, it is easy to start sending emails quickly. Take a moment, slow down, and observe these tips. In truth, they can save you from embarrassment, losing a client, or worse.

A Few Best Practices

1) Select a font style and size that is professional and easy to read — avoid “cutesy.”

2) Choose a color that is easy on the eye and reflects a business tone and image.

3) DO NOT USE ALL CAPITALS — this is a major e-mail no-no — some say it’s like shouting.

4) Prepare a signature line which includes:

a) Phone numbers
b) Office address (including city and zip)
c) Designations or credentials
d) Title
e) Websites
f) CalBRE license number

5) Treat email communications like any other business correspondence and try to avoid acronyms especially ones like: OMG, LOL and WTF — you get the picture!

6) Consider this: Type your message BEFORE you enter a recipient’s name; this will prevent a slip of the fingers that sends an email before you are really ready to do so!


Questions? Email them to:Kathy@Compass.com

The foregoing is not to be construed as legal advice. It is for the purposes of real estate brokerage education only.


Kathy Mehringer
Regional Director of Risk Management & Education
Broker Associate
CalBRE # 00625769
9560 Wilshire Blvd, Ste 200
Beverly Hills, CA 90212