Network Etiquette: Rules of Business Correspondence

Since everyone has switched to distance work and schooling, business correspondence has become the most popular means of communication between the academic staff and students. What is the proper way to write e-mails? Can you use smiley-face emojis? And which phases are better avoided? Alena Tezina, a lecturer of the Institute of Media, Social Sciences and Humanities of South Ural State University gives some tips.

— Could you please tell us what business correspondence is, and where it takes place?

— Business correspondence is a means of holding business communication via the information media. The most popular way of doing it today is on the Internet. Meanwhile, you can use both the e-mailing services or messengers for your correspondence. It’s important to note that business correspondence implies that you must follow the rules of business etiquette.

— What is the proper way to write a business e-mail?

— A business e-mail in its structure does not differ from a common hardcopy letter. It consists of a greeting, the body text and the sender’s signature. But there are certain subtleties. A business e-mail must always have a subject. It should be worded concisely and clearly. This will make it easier for your correspondent. If in the subject of your e-mail you refer to a document, you must check if you have attached it before you send your e-mail. Moreover, you must pay attention to the e-mail address, which you’re sending your e-mail from. A funny or puzzling e-mail address might tell your correspondent that you do not take the process of the business communication seriously.

— What is a polite way to greet a correspondent?

— According to the rules of the etiquette, you must greet your correspondent in a proper way. The neutral forms of doing it are ‘Hello’ and ‘Good day’. The trending Russian form of the recent years, which translates into English as ‘Good whatever time of day applies’ is incorrect. All the participants of the business communication understand that the e-mail can be read at any time of day, so you should better avoid this attempt of “pleasing” everyone.

— What types of salutation are correct in an e-mail?

— The most common form of salutation in a business e-mail is “Dear”. You can start your e-mail with it, and then use the greeting. It’s important to remember the Russian national etiquette does not accept the use of a name only as the salutation for your business. That is why you need to either find out the patronymic of your correspondent, or do not use the name at all, but rather replace it with a neutral “colleagues”. A controversial point that people keep arguing about is the use of the Russian capitalized “You” pronoun when addressing one correspondent. This is acceptable solely when addressing one correspondent in official or personal letters if you wish to stress the importance of the correspondent and your respect of him/her. In all other cases, both when you address one person or a group of people, you should write “you” in a lower case letter.

Photo: A.V. Tezina, lecturer at the Department Photo: A.V. Tezina, lecturer at the Department of Russian Language and Literature of the Institute of Media, Social Sciences and Humanities

— What are the requirements to the body of the e-mail?

— The main requirement is to keep up the structure. It consists of two parts. In the first part you should describe the situation, and in the second one you should propose something or ask for a favour. These parts should be marked as separate paragraphs. You should use the traditional type face and font size. But it is acceptable to highlight certain words in Bold in order to draw attention to important aspects. And it’s also important to mention that an e-mail must not be longer than half an А4 page, and the lines must not be long. Otherwise the letter can be displayed incorrectly and inconveniently for reading on a tablet or telephone (and your business partner can use any device to view letters.

— What are the best letter closings?

— To close your letter, you should once again pay respect to your correspondent – thus you will encourage your partner for further constructive dialogue. The best wordings are: “Best regards”, “With warmest regards”, and the like. It is important to avoid overfamiliarity. Next, you write your contacts, indicating your full name, position, organization, contact phone number and e-mail address, that is you should close your letter with a sufficient number of options of contacting you. However, you must not overload your signature with information; approximately five lines would be quite enough.

— Is it appropriate to use smiley-face emojis in business correspondence?

— It is, if your relationship with your correspondent allow for it. For example, if your are long-time partners, or your relationship is of personal character, that is if you met each other in informal circumstances; or if you’re on the same page with him/her and know that your expression of emotions will be understood correctly. Even a student can put a smiley-face in his/her e-mail to his/her teacher, but only one and only if the context allows to do so. The overuse of smiley-face emojis in a business letter might show you as a careless correspondent who doesn’t take the process seriously.

—Are there any anti-rules of business correspondence?

— The anti-rules include all the things that do not comply with the requirements of the official and business style. It is standardized to the maximum, requires the text to be concise and logic, the minimal expression of emotions, and bans any personal stories. I’d better not give any examples of the anti-rules, so that don’t accidentally stick in your memory. And as for the proper rules, you can read about them in study guides on the culture of speech: Russian Language. Culture of Speech. Business Communication (by L. A. Vvedenskaiia), or Culture of Speech and Business Communication (by V. V. Khimik). And all the SUSU students learn about how to conduct business correspondence from the course on the Russian Language and Standards of Speech.


Daria Tsymbaliuk, photo:, personal library of A.V. Tezina
Contact person: 
Evgeniy Zagoskin, Office of Internet Portals and Social Media, 267-92-86
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