Dec 11, 2010

24 tips on e-mail etiquette


Thank your lucky stars if you haven’t committed these e-mail hara-kiri moves yet. Submitted a resume you realized later was shot through with misspellings and grammatical lapses. Accidentally hit "Reply All" and sent dirty jokes-with lewd pictures to boot-to all your clients. Or called your boss a “bitch” in a blistering e-mail fired off to your colleague, not realizing that your supervisor’s name was on the CC: field.

And to ensure you never, ever make such self-stabbing gaffes, keep these reminders on e-mail etiquette firmly in mind.
  1. Be concise. E-mail messages are harder to read than printed versions, so keep them short and to the point (maximum sentence length: 15 to 20 words) without leaving out important details.
  2. Preempt more queries. Answer all the sender’s stated and anticipated questions to minimize follow-up emails.
  3. Follow the correct structure. To facilitate reading, use short paragraphs, blank lines between paragraphs, and breakers such as bullet points or numbers when making points.
  4. Be careful with formatting. The sender might not see the formatting or might view fonts differently from that intended. When using colors, use one that is easy on the eye.
  5. Catch errors. Use a dictionary or spell checker to avoid miscommunication from e-mails that have spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes.
  6. Don’t attach needless files. Large attachments are annoying, can carry viruses, and can even bring down the recipient’s e-mail system. Ask permission from the receiver first before sending an attachment.
  7. Don’t copy without permission. And ask permission from the originator first before forwarding a message or attachment; you might be infringing on copyright laws.
  8. Don’t abuse the “High Priority” option. Overuse of this feature can dull its impact and make your message appear aggressive. Resist the itch, too, to type URGENT or IMPORTANT in an e-mail or subject line.
  9. Use the recipient’s title. For first-time communications, use the recipient’s title (Mr., Ms., Engr. or Dr.) and last name. Go on a first name basis only if your correspondent implies it is all right to do so.
  10. Don’t overuse Reply to All. Only use it if you really need your message viewed by each recipient of the original message.
More dos and don’ts when sending professional e-mails:
  1. Writing in all capitals is a no-no. Using all uppercase is like shouting; it also impedes reading and is irritating enough to merit an unwanted response.
  2. Include the message thread. When replying to e-mail, include the original mail in your reply to jog the recipient’s memory.
  3. Use clear, specific subject lines. It will improve the odds of your message being read as well as help the recipient search for it and file it appropriately.
  4. Add an e-mail disclaimer. Disclaimers in your internal and external mails can help protect you from liability if you inadvertently forwarded a virus by e-mail.
  5. Handle abbreviations and emoticons with care. In business e-mails, use of abbreviations (such as BTW for by the way) and emoticons (smiley faces) is generally inappropriate.
  6. Say it right. When you write, people can’t see your expression so make sure your tone is polite and friendly. Avoid sarcasm and do say “please” and “thank you.”
  7. Don’t forward hoaxes. You’re wasting people’s time and bandwidth when you send chain letters, jokes, and virus warnings. The proper place for them? The recycle bin.
  8. Avoid message recall. A better option: Just send an e-mail to say that you have made a mistake, which looks more honest.
  9. Don’t transmit confidential or offensive info. That is, unless you fancy seeing your highly personal e-mail displayed on the bulletin board or having your day in court for forwarding or making libelous, sexist or defamatory comments.
  10. Prefer active to passive verbs. “We will send the receipt over on Wednesday” packs more punch than “The receipt will be sent over on Wednesday.”
  11. Ignore spam. Just delete. By replying or by unsubscribing, you confirm that your email address is “live,” which will only attract more junk mails.
  12. Your e-mail address is you. Convey a professional tone by avoiding suggestive, shocking or cute addies.
  13. Ask, “What did I forget?” Before sending anything, go over your checklist of commonly forgotten steps: Is the email address spelled correct? Is the message clear? Is the attachment attached?
  14. Save the "TO:” field for last: Fill it in only after you are completely through proofing your e-mail to avoid “accidents.” Check the name too since some email clients automatically fill in the field when you type in the first few letters of an email address or a recipient's name. 

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