E-mail etiquette is so ubiquitous that we forget that it isn’t talking on the phone or having a conversation in person. Subtlety, facial expressions, or tonality are all lost in an e-mail message. I have found this has gotten me in trouble when I think I’m being funny, subtle, or sarcastic in an e-mail. And, the habit many of us have of forwarding a joke, photo, or an article creates even greater problems in many cases.
I think e-mail should probably be treated as Eliza Doolittle was advised in “My Fair Lady” about making conversation. “Stick to the weather and health” was Professor Higgins’s caution. Even that proved problematic as Eliza went into too much embarrassing detail about her own family’s health, before she completely blew it with her expletive encouraging one of the racehorses to “move your bloomin’ ass!”