Email: Can efficiency and quality go hand in hand?

Le courriel : peut-on faire rimer efficacité et qualité?

For many professionals, email has become the simplest way to communicate with clients. Unlike snail mail, email is easy to use and quick to send. But does this efficiency gain come at the expense of content quality? Learn how to use email properly, in order to leverage its undeniable benefits and avoid professional headaches.

6 smart writing tips

  1. Start and end your messages with standard forms of address
    An email that contains only the body of the message may be perceived as angry or arrogant. Don’t forget, your client can’t rely on the tone of your voice to gauge your intent. Each year, the Office of the syndic receives numerous calls from clients who mistakenly believe their CPAs are upset and don’t dare call them back.

  2. Delete email chains
    Your messages and your clients’ could be sent to others and end up in the wrong hands. Whenever possible, when you respond to or forward an email, delete the previous messages if they’re no longer relevant. This is an easy way to limit the disclosure of confidential information, for example, if new recipients are added to the email thread.

  3. Protect sensitive data
    When emails are unencrypted, the confidentiality of the information transmitted is not protected. To make your emails more secure, password-protect any attachments that contain sensitive data (e.g. personal tax returns, financial statements). For more information, consult the CPA guide on best practices in IT use (p. 29).

  4. Make sure you select the right addressee
    Email software autosuggest recipients as soon as you type a few letters. Don’t go too fast and make sure you select the right person. Someone recently contacted the Office of the syndic because he received an email from his CPA intended for a third party with the same initials. Realizing that an unauthorized person had gained access to his file, he requested an investigation into the matter. Remember: Once an email is sent, you can’t get it back!

  5. Be careful with service providers outside Canada
    Avoid free email addresses with servers outside of Canada. Instead, choose a specialized provider that offers a more secure platform and service. It doesn’t cost much, and it’s personalized. The Order, the Barreau and the Chambre des notaires have negotiated a member offer for a turnkey cloud service solution that ensures information security. Find out more >

  6. Obtain authorization before sending documents
    Most compilation, review and audit engagement letters contain provisions on the use of email. When mandates do not fall within these areas of expertise, make sure you obtain your clients’ authorization before emailing any documents protected by professional secrecy. Take the opportunity to validate which email address they want you to use.

In short, email is perfect for quick, informal exchanges. However, skilful writing and sufficient security to protect confidentiality are essential for its proper use.

Find out more

The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) has published a series of online articles (in French only) on best practices for email writing which discuss, among other things, greetings and sign-offs, bilingual emails, netiquette and the use of emoticons. Several sample messages are also available for consultation.

Read the OQLF articles >

The federal government’s Translation Bureau also has a page with tips on how to write relevant and effective emails. Topics include netiquette, subject line, content, presentation and attachments.

Read the Translation Bureau’s email communication tips >