Hi Forum Participants:
As a prominent etiquette expert, I teach e-mail etiquette every week. There are rules that should be followed but most people using it lack education in business letter writing. We often forget that e-mails sent to and received from businesses are business correspondence and should meet the same standards as a typed letter in a stamped envelope. The same should be true of personal correspondence. E-mails are just a quicker delivery service of the same correspondence you would send to a friend without the time and effort of writing a letter with paper and pen.
Regarding your received e-mail - if it has also been sent to a list of others, that list is not yours, even though it is visible to you. If you intend to reply to the sender that there is a problem with what the sender wrote, do so directly with the sender. Reply to all is only supposed to be used if you all are known to each other and perhaps need to confirm that you are aware of an event all the others are aware - such as a change of venue for a meeting.
Here are some other rules that are generally accepted rules of etiquette when using e-mail.
Dont Cry Wolf
Some e-mail systems allow you to tag messages with such terms as Urgent or Priority. Avoid these unless the message really is very urgent. All e-mail is delivered instantaneously, so the use of those messages doesnt get it there any faster.
Use Receipt Requested sparingly. Some services allow you to request a receipt indicating that the email was actually read. Use it sparingly. Some people view this as a sign of distrust. On the other hand, it can be useful if you are not sure the person actually logs on to the service to read e-mail. This feature is best reserved for those situations where you really do need a written record that the mail was received, or when you are not sure whether the person logs onto read his or her mail.
IT Never Dies
Be aware that e-mail can be archived and, under some circumstances, may not be secure. Online services and e-mail companies protect the confidentiality of subscribers e-mail. But some internal- mail systems are not secure. There are companies that consider their employees e-mail to be company property and subject it scrutiny.
Regardless of the system you use, e-mail, like mail and phone records, can be subpoenaed by a court of law in certain situations.
Identify Yourself and Your Subject
If the recipient doesnt know you, give them a simple sentence or 2 describing who you are and why youre sending them e-mail. Dont just start in with the message. And in the message, try to let the reader know, as soon as possible, what you are writing about.
Many services allow users to type in the subject heading. USE IT! and it shouldn't say "Hello" or "How are you?" Those and similar subject lines will send the e-mail straight to the spam folder on most person's machines.
Use Humor with Care
Be careful with your use of sarcasm, irony or even some forms of humor. It can be easily misinterpreted.
Unlike phone calls or face-to-face meetings, there is no interactive feedback from the other person, so clues like smiles or a warm tone of voice that might soften a comment are missing. Also, dont forward jokes you receive by email without letting the recipient know and asking permission.
Use Common English
Unless you know that the other person appreciates such things, be judicious in your use of slang, dialects and other unusual forms of expression.
This is not to say that you shouldnt be expressive and personal, but its best to stick to normal conversational language.
Know Your Recipient
Different people have different ideas of what is acceptable. Find out and respect each persons wishes. If you dont know the other person, it is best to be more conservative. Avoid sarcasm or anger and go lightly with humor it can easily be misunderstood.
If you know the recipient, and know his or her tastes, then there is little to worry about. But if youre posting a public message or sending a note that is likely to be forwarded to others, behave you would in a public forum.
Control Emotional Outbursts
Everyone gets angry, sometimes. Be careful how you express anger on e-mail. An angry, emotionally charged e-mail message could get you in trouble or embarrass you. If you are tempted to write an emotionally charged message, its best to write it off-line and let it sit for a while before you send it.
Remember, on most services, once a message is sent, it is out of your hands. Unlike the Postal Service, theres no cooling-off period between writing a letter and depositing it in a mailbox.
Some people who are otherwise pleasant and civil become rude, disrespectful or easily angered in using e-mail. The apparent anonymity makes them feel immune from standards of common decency.
Well, you are not anonymous especially with services that automatically post your name or ID number. Remember that there are human beings on the other end of that email. The people reading your message will be as hurt, angered or insulted by rude email as they are from rude speech. E-mail is not a license to abuse or insult.
Use Email Whenever Possible
The biggest abuse of e-mail is lack of use.
Always ask if you may contact a person by email. Some people, especially in social relationships do not wish to correspond by e-mail.
Why play telephone tag with someone when you can send a message and log on later for the answer? Why waste paper from fax machines when e-mail will do the job, often for less money?
Read Your E-mail
Unlike a fax or posted letter, email doesnt get delivered. You have to log on and read it.
If you use e-mail, check your mail regularly. Some people subscribe to e-mail services, publish their names and never bother to log on.
Be Up Front about Copies
If you distribute copies of a message, its considered common courtesy to let the addressee know who else is receiving it.
Some services allow you to send blind copies - that is, to send copies without informing your original recipient that duplicates of your message are going to others, too.
Before using that feature, consider how you would feel if people distributed blind copies of letter they addressed to you.
Dont Be Pushy
In some situations, copies are used as a way to intimidate people especially if you tell them that youre sending a copy of your message to their boss.
Aside from seeming to be using intimidation, sending unnecessary copies of your message can be annoying to the people who receive them.
Consider the recipients time and, on some systems, the online charges that may accrue.
Some people love long messages - like they love long letters. Others find them annoying. One problem with long messages is that sometimes the important points may get lost.
Many people express concern about too many capital letters. They may be used to emphasize a word or 2 in a message, but not for the entire message.
Using all capitals for an entire message is perceived by many as shouting and it makes the message more difficult to read.
Remember-You are on Record
Because of the informal and conversational nature of e-mail, its easy to forget that it is a written communication. Unlike phone calls or personal conversation, there is a written record that could come back to haunt you. Anything you say in an email message can be saved, printed or sent to others.
Relax and be casual, but try not to write something you wouldnt want to see printed on the front page of The Washington Post. It may well get there.
Use Cute Symbols Sparingly
The surveys revealed mixed reactions to the use of symbols, or icons such as <G> for grin or little frowns or happy faces that you make with the keyboard, such as or . Some accept them as people having fun.
But others feel that the text itself should be used to convey any emotions and such symbols are unnecessary. As with other new terms, they may wind up someday as acceptable parts of our vocabulary on-line.
copyright The Lett Group 2007
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