“I’m Mike’s PhD student”: Uncertainty reduction in introductory business emails

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This paper contributes to the discussion on technologically-mediated interactions by examining an under-studied area of email communication – introductory emails in 19 business-client relationships, between clients and a sole trader (i.e., the manager and only employee of the business). By using real-world email data to examine introductions, this paper aims to give explore the process of ‘getting to know’ someone in a task-focussed manner.

The analysis, by focusing on the clients’ linguistic behaviours, demonstrates that a large proportion of these relate to self-disclosure and uncertainty reduction, where email partners try to rapidly give as much pertinent information as possible about themselves, and to discover what they need to know about their co-participant. The findings suggest that other than launching self-disclosures (as observed in prior studies focusing on face-to-face introduction between previously unacquainted people [e.g., Coupland et al., 1988; Pillet-Shore, 2011]), additional strategies are drawn on by the initiators on a CMC platform to reduce uncertainty, including naming mutual connections, using third-party knowledge and stating paid service needs. Compared to a face-to-face introduction, where introducing is a sequence of turns, hence a symmetrical process (Berger & Calabrese, 1975, p. 100) with disclosure prompting disclosure (Haugh & Carbaugh, 2015, p. 480), email writers deliver their introductions all in one go, and without the benefit of immediate feedback, thus showing how the process of introduction making is reshaped by the mediated context of email.
Period29 Jun 2021
Event title17th International Pragmatics Conference
Event typeConference
LocationWinterthur, SwitzerlandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • pragmatics
  • business-client interaction
  • CMC
  • email
  • uncertainty reduction
  • relational work
  • introductory sequences