Politeness in Business Writing: The Effects of Ethnicity and Relating Factors on Email Communication


This study investigated politeness in workplace emails that were written in a Malaysian educational institute. It examined the use of politeness strategies in relation to the ethnicity of the communicators, power relations and social distance. Previous research on Malaysian workplace emails revealed that Malaysians usually use the direct imperative or declarative politeness strategies in emails. This study however, revealed that the Malaysian employees (i.e., Malay, Chinese Malaysians, Indian Malaysians) mainly used the indirect positive and negative politeness strategies. This is the case to establish rapport and connect with the recipient on the personal level. The study also revealed that social distance played a more significant role than power imbalance as Malaysians, in general, seemed more polite to distant colleagues than they were to close colleagues.

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AlAfnan, M. (2014) Politeness in Business Writing: The Effects of Ethnicity and Relating Factors on Email Communication. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 4, 275-289. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2014.42022.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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