May 30, 2007 Edition

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To e-mail or not to e-mail?

Linda Lou Moore
Guest Writer

Question: When is it appropriate to e-mail invitations or other communications? Answer: It depends on the situation.

What a treat to receive "real mail" - not just bulk mail and bills. In this day and age of e-mails, actually receiving a traditional letter, note or invitation makes much more of a positive impression than a message flashed upon a computer screen.

Electronic mail serves a wonderful purpose. With lightning speed information can be sent to others with the click of the "send" button. It is a quick and convenient way to convey information and stay in touch with others. However, much of the e-mail is impersonal, easily deleted and quickly forgotten.

The following frequently asked questions may help in your decision to e-mail or not to e-mail:

Question: Is it a good idea to e-mail a business thank you note?

Answer: A written thank you note to a business colleague is not only appreciated, but important. You may want to thank someone for an interview, their assistance on a project or their thoughtfulness and kindness concerning a business matter.

Although, sending an e-mail is quick way to say "thanks" it is not considered as professional as mailing a thank you note. Most business people receive a flood of e-mails each day. Your e-mail could easily get "lost in the shuffle." Often, an e-mail does not have the impact that receiving a mailed note does. Receiving a hand-written thank you note makes a better and more lasting impression than just receiving something over the computer screen.

Question: I'm planning on sending invitations to business colleagues for a business reception. May I give an e-mail address as one of the ways for the guests to RSVP ?

Answer: When sending business invitations, you may list the business address, business phone and e-mail address for your guests to respond. Giving your guests different types of options can make it more convenient for them and also for you.

Question: A friends' brother just died. May I e-mail my condolences?

Answer: Hearing from a friend after they have lost a loved one is always appreciated. Experts agree that a hand-written condolence note or a hand-written expression of sympathy on a condolence card is much better than just an e-mail.

According to Florence Isaacs, author of "Just a Note to Say," " The purpose of a condolence note is, (1) to express your sympathy, (2) to acknowledge the loss and (3) to offer comfort."

This type of communication is intimate. A hand-written note can be saved and reread while an e-mail is fleeting and may be perceived as somewhat too impersonal.

Question: May I e-mail an invitation to a spur of the moment get-together?

Answer: E-mail invitations can be used for casual gatherings. For example, if you want to meet a couple of friends for lunch or for a get together after work an e-mail is appropriate. Quick and casual are the standard rules for sending these types of e-mails.

Question: Is it OK to e-mail a wedding invitation?

Answer: The more formal the event the more formal the invitation.

"The Brides's Book of Etiquette" by Bride's Magazine addresses the questions of e-mail wedding invitations.

"If you are getting married quickly ~ between one and six weeks from now ~ there may not be time to get invitations formally printed and mailed. If time is very tight, your parents may send handwritten notes or invite guests personally by telephone or e-mail."

Question: Is it appropriate to e-mail wedding shower invitations?

Answer: Some people find this crass, as though the only thought is: Let's cut to the chase and get to the gifts. Traditionally, the purpose of a wedding shower is to give gifts to the bride and groom as they begin their life together. "The New Book of Wedding Etiquette" by Kim Shaw states: "Since the acceptance of the invitation carries the obligation of a gift, it's polite to go to the trouble of actually sending a written one rather than telephoning or e-mailing."

According to "Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette," "Invitations to informal or casual engagement parties, bridal showers and other pre-wedding get-togethers are for extremely important occasions, and most couples and their families will want to honor this fact by sending out printed invitations. E-mailed invitations can be an acceptable alternative, however, particularly if you are planning an informal affair or the people on your guest list are especially computer friendly. This is not the time for a group e-mail, though ~ each e-mail should begin with an individual salutation to the intended recipient."

Question: When I send a written invitation to a shower, may I include an e-mail address as part of the RSVP?

Answer: When sending a written invitation to a shower you may include an e-mail address as part of the RSVP. Remember that not everyone may have access to a computer or feel comfortable responding in that manner. Include other means of contact such as a street address, post office box or telephone number. For example, Mary Ellen and Jake Thompson invite you to a miscellaneous shower for Andrea Hall and Brad Young on Saturday, November 20, at six o'clock, 1111 South 11th Street, Charleston, RSVP 754-3322 or

Kim Shaw, author of "The New Book of Wedding Etiquette," discusses RSVP e-mail etiquette with the following advice, " Responses, however, may be given by phone, or e-mail, as the hostess chooses."

In this fast-paced world most of us are looking for ways to help expedite communicating with others. E-mail is a wonderful tool and can be used effectively in so many situations. There are times, however, when written correspondence is preferable.

Peggy Post, author of "Emily Post's Etiquette" writes: "There are three types of letters that should always be handwritten unless you are disabled and must use a word processor or typewriter. They are the following: Notes of Condolence, Formal Invitations and Thank You Notes."

Question: To e-mail or not to e-mail? Answer: Now you know.

Linda Lou Moore of Paragould is trained and certified by The Protocol School of Washington, Washington, D.C. She offers customized individual and group etiquette programs for children, teens and adults. She may be reached at Post Office Box 145, Paragould, AR 72451 or at

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