Email-Cowards: Please, Kill the Caps Lock

Unfamiliar Territory

I have been avoiding this. I do not want to write this post because I am an English teacher who is rethinking how to write in plain language. It is more than uncomfortable, especially at first glance. Initially, I thought plain language meant that I must write without voice or flair. My chances of liking this nose-dived. BUT, then I discovered the characteristics of technical writing, and I began to brainstorm.

After reading through introductory material in Open- TC, I realized that technical writing has unique qualities:

  • Focuses on a problem
  • Relates to technology
  • Professional
  • Style Conscious
  • Ethical

Since my professional communications project will make use of these TC characteristics, and I need all of the practice I can get,  I found a topic that relates to mentoring: the proper use of an email.


Hiding Behind a Screen: You know I will see you later, right?


Can you relate? 

Over the years, I have had the occasional rude email make its way to my inbox, surprisingly, from professional people. I received one such email recently. I noticed that a colleague allowed personal frustrations to materialize in an email that was sent to a rather large group. It was not directed at anyone in particular, but the email was less than desirable. Even well-respected leaders have made some mistakes when it comes to email. This fairly common flaw begs the question: What kind of filters should we apply before choosing to “send”?


Even now, as I write this, I find myself in a complicated rhetorical situation because I know exactly which email offended me and prompted me to begin exploring this issue in relation to my semester-long project. However, names, topics, and specifics are irrelevant here. This is a pattern, and I believe it is something that needs attention in the workplace. (It is 2020, and I am still receiving emails written in all caps.)

Here is what I tell new teachers when they want to deliver a meanie-gram…

Email Filters

  • Is what I am about to send something that would be better communicated in-person?
  • Will I regret sending this email if my superiors read it as well?
  • What will be the effects of this email?
  • Am I being reasonable?
  • Have I given the issue enough time to work itself out?
  • Have I taken into consideration how each individual recipient will perceive its content?
  • Is what I am saying true and necessary?


After mentoring new teachers for years, I have noted that this topic will surface. Interestingly enough, it is not just the new teachers who need coached in email etiquette. While we are all human and should be given some grace, educating employees on filtering their frustrations can save us from headaches. Rudeness damages morale, and it is already hard enough to replace great employees.


Our words matter. Open but respectful communication is essential to a healthy work environment. 



Race, Cassie. Open Technical Communication. SoftChalk CLOUD, 19 Dec. 2019,

Toshiyuki IMAI. “Caps Lock.” Flickr, August 8, 2008. Link to Image

3 thoughts on “Email-Cowards: Please, Kill the Caps Lock

  • February 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    You’re starting to describe a cool project. Let’s talk about this when we meet on Tuesday!

  • February 7, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Jocelyn, This is so full of (wonderful) voice. Most entertaining.

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