Case study The Flame

The technology revolution is upon us. In recent years there have been many triumphs in technology. Now more than ever, people are able to communicate over thousands of miles with the greatest of ease. Wireless communication is much to thank for the ease of communication. What used to take weeks threw mail, now takes seconds over the Internet or even through the company network. However, just like any revolution there are social consequences.

Email technology has solved many business problems but it has also created some etiquette dilemmas as personal and business users rely on it more and more. Words can be harsh. Email could sometimes be so casual it is almost like speaking, however without the tonality.

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In the case study, the email to Tom was what is called a “flame”. What is a “flame” or specifically what does it mean “to be flamed?” To be flamed means that you’ve sent an e-mail to a person(s) that has caused that person(s) to respond in many, not-so-nice words. It’s basically a verbal attack in electronic form.

Sometimes the reason for a flame is quite obvious (keep reading), but in other cases you just never know. You might send what you think is a harmless e-mail to ten people. Nine people respond in a rational tone while number ten sends you a flame. Just remember that everyone sees the world differently. You may be lucky and spend your whole life dealing only with the people in the group of nine, but I’ll bet that sooner or later you will run into person ten ( ). The initial email to Tom, did not start with the proper etiquette to set the stage in the email. Normally, a salutation or greeting will set a pleasant stage. The email then followed by non-professional criticism. The criticism basically set the person receiving it in an angry mood. In business, email should be brief, concise and professional. If there are any details that should be discussed pertaining the email, a face-to-face meeting should be arranged. In the flame, the initial email to Tom not only negatively criticized his work, but also demanded Tom to act a certain way in order for the task to be completed.

In the case study Tom responded with a flame as well. His email reply was entirely all CAPS. Besides being hard to read, it also signifies that Tom was shouting.

Use of upper-case words is the equivalent of shouting in some one’s ear. ONLY use upper-case words when trying to make a point (such as I just did). Even at that, you should be careful with who you are exchanging messages (

The following are some points about how the flame could have been prevented and how to make good manners and high technology work together.

Salutations or greetings should be used. In the business situation, things are much more complicated. Each situation will need to be evaluated on its on, but in general, I would use the following as a guide: If you normally address a person as Miss/Mrs./Ms./Mr. Smith then that’s the way I would initially address them in e-mail. If you normally call them by their first name then I would either omit the salutation or follow the guideline specified in the prior paragraph. If you are unsure, stick to the formal salutation. It’s the safest bet (

Be brief because it’s a message, don’t be a novelist. Messages should be concise and to the point. Think of it as a telephone conversation, except you are typing instead of speaking. Nobody has ever won a Pulitzer Prize for a telephone conversation nor will they win one for an e-mail message. To add emphasis, do not shout. The emphasis should be in the description or text portion of the message. Use emoticons to convey a specific emotion. (

“Flaming” is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion. It’s the kind of message that makes people respond. In my personal experience with email, most sensitive issues are discussed in a conference room, not in an email. Therefore, in business, the emails in the case study discussed would be considered highly unprofessional and perhaps both recipients would need a lesson or class on professionalism. The email should’ve been a request for meeting to discuss issues on the subject at hand, thus leading to a perhaps more pleasant collaboration instead of a “flame war”. Keeping the email brief, to the point and formal could have prevented the flame.

“E-mail Etiquette.” I Will Follow…Services 19 Nov. 2000

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Case study The Flame. (2018, Jul 04). Retrieved from