Email Etiquette: How do we Appear to Others?

by | Mar 1, 2012 | Email

In what appears to be a desperate pursuit of both economy and productivity, many people seem to have really gone off the deep end attempting to communicate entirely via email (and more recently via text messaging). But are we really getting across exactly what we mean so say?

Be sure the “Subject:” field accurately reflects the content of your email: This makes it easier for both the sender and receiver to identify messages and keep them organized.

Limit the topic: If you want to ensure that any questions about the topic are responded to, keep the message simple and stick to expecting one answer about one question. Otherwise, people generally do not answer all that you ask.

Be courteous: Make sure your e-mail includes a courteous greeting and closing. It is especially important to remember that email does NOT have voice inflection, so make sure your written words do not seem demanding (such as when you USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS or numerous exclamation points) or terse (such as when you treat email like text messages).

Include previous message: Be sure you are including all relevant details or information necessary to understand your request or point of view. Generalities can many times cause confusion and unnecessary back and forths.

Signatures: Even though you think that your recipient knows who you are, it is polite to include a “signature” at the end of your message — your name, your affiliation, your phone number and (perhaps if appropriate) your address.

Use attachments wisely (and sparingly): Attachments are a convenient way to share files with colleagues. They are not meant to distribute information to large numbers of people. Sending a giant file to a huge group of people is both wasteful and rude. It takes up bandwidth, and for many people who might read the message over a modem, it takes up time. As a general rule, send attachments only to colleagues you know well.

Email does not replace the phone: Messages that require immediate attention or response are best dealt with in a phone call. Do not assume that people are checking their email every few minutes.

Replying to messages: When replying to an email message, check the list of recipients. If the message you received went to more than one recipient, your reply will go to ALL of those recipients as well if you reply to ALL.

Use caution: Email is easily shared with the public, so be careful what your message contains!


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