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Humor

Jokes have no place in electronic business writing. Save the humorous anecdotes for golf outings, luncheon meetings, and other in-person gatherings. Because e-mail is an impersonal medium offering none of the benefits of inflection, facial expression, or body language, electronic humor is risky business. Unless written by a professional humorist, electronic jokes are likely to fall flat or be misconstrued by the reader. At best, an attempt at humor could irritate or agitate the recipient, spelling disaster for a business relationship. Worst-case scenario: An employee’s joke could trigger a workplace lawsuit.

Real-Life E-Disaster

Employee misuse of corporate e-mail can result in six-figure litigation costs and million-dollar legal settlements. In one high-profile case, Chevron Corporation in 1995 was ordered to pay female employees $2.2 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit stemming from inappropriate “jokes” e-mailed internally by male employees. The offenders’ cyberjokes included, among other gems, “25 Reasons Why Beer is Better Than Women.”[25]


[25] Carrns, “Prying Times.”


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