Consulting 4.4 Digital communication: Telephone etiquette

This is the final lesson on phone or email communication. You will learn about etiquette and discuss both formal and casual English. 


In this lesson, you will learn in detail about culture and style for emails and telephone calls. This will enable you to match the style of the person with whom you are communicating.

Warm Up: 

Read the following dialogue with your teacher.

Alan is an executive at AF Company, a Silicon Valley tech company. Dan is a consultant who has been working with Alan for a few weeks. It's Thursday morning, and they already have a meeting scheduled late Friday afternoon.

Alan: Hello, AF Company, Alan here.
Dan: Hello, may I speak to Alan Goode, please? 
Alan: Speaking. 
Dan: Hello, this is Dan with GH Consulting.
Alan: Oh, hey Dan! How's it going?
Dan: Fine. I am calling to inform you that we have finished analyzing the survey data ahead of schedule, and we are ready to share our findings at your earliest convenience. 
Alan: That was quick! 
Dan: Yes.
Alan: But let's see, I'm booked up until tomorrow afternoon, so let's just stick to the original schedule. 
Dan: Okay. 
Alan: So I'll see you and your team tomorrow at 2pm?
Dan: Yes. Bye-bye.

Dan made at least 4 specific communication errors, and one huge, general mistake. Can you spot everything he did wrong?


A. One major etiquette goal is mirroring style. Beginning the conversation will depend on the person with whom you are talking—some people prefer to get down to business, while others are more informal and friendly.

Recall common greetings and responses from previous lessons. 

Make sure your intonation is varied and expressive, even more so than in person.

B. Signaling the need to finish and then finishing strongly is important. Arrange the following phrases from most to least formal, and discuss with whom you might use the language:

  1. Thanks so much for your time/for taking the time to speak with me. 
  2. Well, I know you’re busy, so I don’t want to keep you.
  3. I want to get home before my kids' bedtime. Gotta run! 
  4. Okay, so I’ll get right on that, and we’ll touch base next week.
  5. Well, I'm pretty busy, so... 
  6. Ok, take care.

C. Discuss the following information flow for a typical voicemail. Can you think of any other phrases you could use? 

  1. Greeting—Good morning.
  2. Identify yourself—Jack Robinson from BNL here.
  3. Say what the call is regarding—I'm calling about the follow-up interview we discussed last week. We are free Tuesday at 3pm, if that works for you.
  4. Say the next action—Give me a call back or email me. Whichever is easier. 
  5. Sign off—Looking forward to the next interview. Take care. 

Imagine Jack has called you, and you call him back only to reach his voicemail—you are not available at 3pm; it will have to be later. Leave him a message. Your teacher will time you. Make sure your message is less than 30 seconds long. The ideal length is 20 seconds.


A. You have a 30-minute meeting scheduled with your client tomorrow at 4pm. You need to bring it forward to finish no later than 3pm. You've emailed them a few hours ago but they haven't responded. Call and confirm the time change.

B. You have an urgent update you need to give to your counterpart at the client company in order to prepare them for today's meeting. You sent them an email but haven't heard back. Call to check.