Etiquette Recommendations for Effective Business

Business communication etiquette is in integral part of the success of your career, no matter what your occupational choice. Some careers, such as sales, marketing, financial, or global interactions, rely more on business communication etiquette, but it is important to have a solid foundation in this no matter what field -- and to put your career on the right track.

In this article, we will provide you with great ideas to enhance your current skills, develop new ones, and help eliminate bad ones.

Business communications are powerful in the work environment. In fact, communication is one of the most important elements we have in relationships. Poor communication is one of the problems most often cited within marriage relations, and communication difficulties are also the number one cited deficiency in emergency management exercises. Business communications differ from other common communications, because the user wants to convey messages related to their occupation, skill, craft, or livelihood.

Business communications help to develop strong relationships and build collaboration in the work environment. This article will focus on written and oral business communication etiquette.

Both employees and management gravitate to colleagues and co-workers who have a positive attitude, and who show a great appreciation for, and contribution to, the mission and values of the company or organization. Business communication helps us carry out company missions and values. Being polite and courteous are the two most common traits business people should have to improve business communications.

The landscape for business communication has evolved significantly over the last 15 to 20 years. It presents a number of communication challenges, but also provides a wealth of solutions. We are able to communicate in a matter of seconds across the globe, and this has great impact on the way we conduct business. A significant new change is the growing acceptance of collaborative off site work. Organizations have come to accept this as the norm in order to tap into the talents and initiative of employees. Younger generations have come to accept this as the norm. It also helps to link cultural backgrounds and improve diversity.

The technology used for business communication today allows us to work with productivity and efficiency. It also reduces the need for physical offices. Here are some of the important benefits.

  • Business communication platforms of today help people share ideas.

  • New business communications of today help connect people who are co-located in the same area, but may be on different floors, and to instantly share information by sharing computer screens.

  • Live meetings and platforms, such as Skype, eliminate the need for travel when in town, or across the United States.

  • New business communication is more easily shared and readily available to a larger population than any time in the past. Vast amounts of information and tools are available using "clouds" of information technology.

  • Each organization should periodically review their business communication forms and determine how communications could be improved in the workplace.

Let's take a look at some of the uses, strengths, and weaknesses for different technologies that are available for business communications. These include: collaboration software and apps, cell phones, web conferencing, e-mail, Internet, phone conferencing, and more.

  • E-mail is a commonly available means of sending word documentation and file attachments of audio and video. It can be used anytime, anywhere and is very inexpensive. The downside is storage space -- and file management can be difficult. E-mail has become the main staple within businesses for sharing documents and files, with the ability to serve as documentation of receipt.

  • Internet provides immediate communication with many people at once. It is great for communications with large employee bodies across the state, country, or even across the globe. A downside is that people have to remember to go to the website. Individuals must remember to check the website. Internet platforms actually serve as the backbone for many business communication applications. A significant number of business communication tools are currently Web based. This includes video conferencing, collaborative software, and e-mail. In addition, the Internet is commonly used to connect with apps on smart phones, which provide additional communication means for the business user. Each of these requires an additional level of business communication etiquette.

  • Phone conferencing is inexpensive, as participants need only a telephone, and it spans time zones and large distances. Phone conferencing is a simple, cost-effective method to communicate rapidly, and the sentiment of the user can be recognized. Quite often it is much faster than typing, and eliminates the need for additional meetings. The only downside is that sound quality depends on the equipment.

  • Web conferencing is inexpensive and participants need only a computer and Internet connection. Web conferencing is becoming very common in the business workplace as a means for collaborative meetings. The downside is that it can be complicated to set up.

  • Video conferencing allows a real-time view of participants and their environments. The downside is the high cost of installation and maintenance.

  • Collaborative software is becoming increasingly popular and it allows team members to share documents, chat rooms, and other team work areas. The only downside is the expense.

The new platforms mentioned will continually be used and refined in the future, but still require the same level of business communication etiquette as standard pen-and-paper writing. Let's take the time to review some of these fundamentals. Oral and written communication vary around the world, because it is a part of culture. Communication customs and etiquette have evolved over time to fit the culture in which they are used. The two common errors that occur in business between cultures are lexical errors, and syntactic errors. Lexical errors are errors such as using a word that is close in pronunciation or spelling. Syntactic errors include the order in which the words appear in the sentence. So when we look at verbal communications, there are several key things you can do to improve your verbal communication skills.

Verbal Communications

  • Speak clearly.

  • Make direct eye contact.

  • Make sure the listener is looking at you.

  • Use verbal cues and gestures to support what you are saying.

  • Speak slowly.

  • Do not pause too long between words.

  • Speak in full sentences.

  • Use correct grammar.

  • Only communicate one idea at a time.

  • Use open communication and be receptive to others' ideas.

  • Choose your words carefully, and think before you speak.

  • Use clarity, and if you are unsure of someone's meaning, ask them to reiterate.

  • Use body language to show interest.

  • Ask intelligent, relevant questions if you do not understand.

E-mail Communications

E-mail usage has consistently increased over the past few years as a main form of communication within the business industry. Business communication etiquette dictates that all business people should present themselves as a professional in all communication methods. First and foremost, your email communication should be used to present a clear, concise message to the reader. Emails should receive the same level of professionalism as any other business communication.

  • Messages should be short and to the point.

  • Use correct spelling.

  • Do not use all capital letters.

  • Use spell check appropriately.

  • Write all sentences using proper grammar and punctuation.

  • Format the email as you would a memorandum including a message greeting, message body, and salutation.

  • Include the defined subject in the subject line

  • Use bullets and highlights to distinguish key items.

  • Read your message closely before sending.


Faxes are still commonly sent within many organizations, primarily because of the level of security when it is sent. Many hospitals, schools, and logistics industries rely on faxes on a daily basis. Facsimile usage is decreasing, as they may now be sent by computer. But they still require business communication etiquette. When developing your fax cover sheet, include the required business information in a professional form: the sender's address, the sender's phone number, the sender's facsimile number: a summary of information contained, the receivers facsimile number and phone number. Always consider confidentiality and the security of the fax at the other end.

Business Writing (Pen and Paper)

Business writing is a common method of formal workplace communication. Written communication facilitates transfer of information in a uniform manner and provides a permanent record of communication. Although the common use of writing letters has lessened since the advent of e-mail, written communications are still used for critical documents in the workplace, such as contracts, proposals, court documents, formal memorandums to customers, letters of intent, and letters to clients. Many written forms of communication are attached in the e-mails we send.

Effective written business communication hinges on the accuracy, clarity, and succinct brevity of the message. The accuracy is very similar to proofreading. All written correspondence should be spell-checked, formatted correctly, and checked for proper grammar. Clarity is important in business communication, as well. If the communication is not clear, the utility of the written communication is diminished. Your written communications should be formatted in a manner that is easily read by the receiver. You should use bullets or highlighting for important ideas. In order to optimize the accuracy of your written documents, you would benefit from having an additional reader review the material -- including grammar, format, and spelling. Many commonly available processing tools, such as Microsoft Office, will help build effective business communication documents.

The Effects of Poor Business Communication

We mentioned initially that we would discuss some of the effects of poor business communication etiquette. There are significant impacts on the business operations of a company, if communication is poor. It has far-reaching effects that ultimately can cripple the organization's opportunity for growth. Let's look at some of the major factors.

  • More mistakes can be caused by poor communication skills, and result in misunderstanding of expected tasks and duties. Poor communication leads to misunderstandings, which leads to mistakes. Employees with poor communication skills are less likely to ask for clarification or help.

  • Lower employee morale affects employee productivity, creativity, and inspiration. If communication skills are poor, employees will lack enthusiasm in doing their jobs, and may question their validity within the company. Poor business communication skills will also demoralize the employees, because they are provided with unclear instructions, leading to confusion.

  • Increased employee turnover adds significant cost to businesses, as employees leave because they are frustrated, or there are unclear objectives due to lack of communication. Employee replacement costs can be high, compared to the cost if good communication was in place.

  • Poor customer service can be caused by poor communications between employees and customers. Employees who lack guidance, training, or the tools for communication, struggle to satisfy customers.

  • Higher injury rates are caused by safety accidents and stress-related illnesses. Studies show poor communication is the cause in approximately 40 percent of accidents.

  • Increased absenteeism is caused by uninformed employees who receive inaccurate, inadequate, or inefficient communication, which impacts employee motivation.

  • Higher litigation costs are associated with misunderstandings, poor conflict management, poor relationships, and work-related stress.

  • Lower shareholder return. Companies with effective communication are shown, through studies, to achieve a higher return to shareholders compared with firms that are least effective at communicating.

  • Lower efficiency is associated with communication in business requiring clarification, re-work, correction of errors, and impeded flow. Without implementing clear communication practices, company initiatives are slow and inefficient.

  • Ineffective change management. Companies who poorly communicate and cannot convey change in new business structures, systems, or processes fail to meet their objectives. Management communication skills are necessary to assist employees in dealing with change.

  • Failed project delivery is commonly blamed on poor business communication, resulting in project delays, budget overruns, and project cancellations.

  • Decreased Innovation is often caused by poor communication skills, resulting in the inadequate handling of important projects. Innovation is stifled without positive contributions and new ideas within the organization.

Summary Reminders and Takeaways

It is important that you use every opportunity available to enhance your communication skills. Business communication skills and etiquette are crucial to success in the business environment. Poor communication skills result in poor negotiation skills, decreased collaboration, and less strong relationships. The business communication is considered to be the backbone of today's multi-cultural business world. We also realize there are significant impacts on the business operations of a company if communication is poor. As a business professional, you should always strive to improve your interpersonal communication skills.