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Dear Elizabeth: The “E” in Email Stands for Evidence

2 weeks ago

For those of you who find yourselves obsessing over the breaking details of the perennial legal proceedings that grip our nation, you’re in good company. From true crime cases to exposed Ponzi schemes, these courtroom dramas tend to captivate our country on a regular basis, rearing their heads every few years. The latest litigation scandal to dominate the business world is the Theranos trial, United States v. Elizabeth A. Holmes. For those of you with healthy hobbies that fall outside of the 24-hour news cycle, you can check out: ABC’s podcast, The Drop Out, HBO’s documentary, The Inventor, or for my Redditors, here’s the Theranos subreddit to get up to speed. 

While there are scores of details emerging from the train wreck that is the Theranos trial, there seems to be one recurring theme: Elizabeth’s egregious emails. After thumbing through a handful, it became painfully apparent that the disgraced CEO who was once described as Silicon Valley’s “golden child” forgot the golden rule of writing business emails: they are not ephemeral, and all of them are discoverable. 

Whether you are the greenest of interns or the most seasoned executive, every time you press send from an email address followed by “@companyname.com,” you best take pause and review. Lest you desire the unforgiving glare of publicity that accompanies one’s stroll into the courthouse…

MENTAL STATE

Don’t react; respond

Utilize draft functionality. Your emails don’t always need to fall into drafts because you closed your laptop or mail app too quickly – draft with a purpose! If you receive an email that irks you, go ahead and write your reply, let them know. Then save it in drafts and get some air or assume the child’s pose, whatever you need to do to not REACT to the email. Until you are ready to send a proper response, put some space and time between that first feisty draft and your final message. 

TONE 

Or lack thereof

Try and remember that email is largely toneless, so go ahead and delete unconstructive phrases that clearly feign kindness (‘as per my last email,’ ‘in case you missed it,’ etc.) and the painful pacifier just – I could write a thesis on why “just” has close to zero business in a business email, but I digress. Also, since when did email become an excuse to be impolite? Don’t be afraid to pepper in a couple of ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ to drive your point home. 

SEMANTICS

Review and revise

Go install the Grammarly Chrome extension. I promise this isn’t a sponsored ad; instead, it’s a helpful hint reminding you of the obvious: sloppy emails riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes leave most of us… uninspired. That’s it, that’s the tweet. 

AUDIENCE

Read the room 

Is this a formal or informal business email? You may be thinking, “A casual business email?” Yes, there are plenty of entirely valid reasons to send an informal business email (e.g., to a teammate asking for clarification or a friendly reminder about a meeting). Not every business email needs a formal salutation and an introductory statement. Oh, and emojis can serve an important function when used properly to an otherwise toneless form of communication. Stay tuned for our next article. 😉

MITIGATE RISK

Conscious communication

Sometimes the worst mistakes we make are the ones we are oblivious to. For the 99.9% of you thriving in the business world without the crushing weight that accompanies a law degree, you need a way to ensure your email will not get you fired or put your company in legal jeopardy. 

May we suggest a solution, one that is akin to a pocket-size attorney who pops up on your shoulder and reminds you when your written communications are borderline problematic, but without the $400/hr fee? The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of your employees do not have a legal or compliance background, making it challenging for even the most well-intentioned employee to identify the damaging nature of latent non-compliant or disparaging language. 

Our mission is to help your most ardent ambassadors feel more confident about their communications and effectively combat litigation and regulatory risk before it devolves into a media frenzy. With LitLingo, your compliance trainings and codes of conduct are no longer static e-books or dated quarterly drills. Instead, they are living, breathing documents infused into your enterprise platforms and ready to act in real-time.