Worldwide, more than 247 billion e-mails are sent each day. Little empiric evidence is available to guide how e-mail presentation style, tone, and content affect e-mail recipients and whether these factors impact opinions about the sender and the rapidity of response. In a study of physicians in training assessing a series of 100 e-mail examples, we examined the following: (1) formatting characteristics most and least endorsed, (2) impression of the sender based on the e-mail itself, and (3) factors associated with the decision to respond. We reasoned that our study would provide empiric data to support recommendations for e-mail etiquette, focusing specifically on doctors in training.
Cross-sectional survey study.
Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
After each e-mail, the participating surgical residents completed a series of questions focusing on their impression of the e-mail appearance, their perception of the sender, and their motivation to respond to the e-mail.
Thirty-two residents participated in this study. The responses indicate that the key negatively endorsed features of the e-mails included the use of colored backgrounds (84%), difficult-to-read font (83%), lack of a subject header (55%), opening salutations without recipient names (50%), or no salutation at all (42%). The senders of negatively endorsed e-mails were perceived by participants as inefficient (p = 0.03), unprofessional (p