Email etiquette refers to a set of dos and don " ts that are recommended by business and communication experts in response to the growing concern that people are not using their email effectively or appropriately. Since email is part of the virtual world of communication, many people communicate in their email messages the same way they do in virtual chat rooms: with much less formality and sometimes too aggressively. Email etiquette offers some guidelines that all writers can use to facilitate better communication between themselves and their readers. One overall point to remember is that an email message does not have non-verbal expression to supplement what we are 'saying.' Most of the time we make judgments about a person's motives and intentions based on their tone of voice, gestures, and their proximity to us. When those are absent it becomes more difficult to figure out what the message sender means. It is much easier to offend or hurt someone in email and that is why it is important to be as clear and concise as possible.
Electronic mail (E-mail) cannot replace personal contact. David Angell states that electronic email has many advantages, .".. eliminates phone tag, ... breaks down the distance and time barriers of telephone calls and traditional written communication, ...
shortens the cycle of written communication, ... improves productivity, ... creates flexibility... by reducing telephone interruptions." (Angell-Heslop 2). There is a tendency to be less formal or careful, which can sometimes provoke anger. Remember that direct, person-to-person contact is best for handling sensitive, difficult, complex, or emotional issues.
Therefore, a company needs to implement etiquette rules for the following three reasons: professionalism, by using proper email language your company will convey a professional image, efficiency, emails that get to the point are much more effective than poorly worded emails, and protection from liability: employee awareness of email risks will protect your company from costly law suits. There are many etiquette guides and many different etiquette rules. Some rules will differ according to the nature of your business and the corporate culture. A few of these rules are to be concise and to the point, answer all questions, pre-empty further questions, use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation, answer swiftly, do not attach unnecessary files, do not write in all capitals, and read the email before you send it. When writing an email, indicate the specific topic of your mail message in the subject field. Clear subject headings make everyone's lives easier, helping with prioritizing, filing, cataloging, cross-referencing, and retrieval.
Samantha Miller states that you should keep your subjects short because "A complete sentence will betray you as an email beginner, and many e-mail programs cut off a subject after forty characters... A few words, or one well-selected one are best." (Miller 3). Keep your message focused. If a new topic is introduced it should be under a separate message with a new subject heading. Try to keep in mind that writing styles may cause some messages to come across as sounding abrupt or even antagonistic when that is not the intention of the sender. Take time to read and fully comprehend what has been written before you reply, especially if the message provokes a strong emotional response.
One important thing when you think that you might provoke a strong response is to avoid flaming. Flaming is an inflammatory remark or message. As a result as David Harris puts it "Messages sent in the heat of the moment generally only exacerbate the situation... ." (Harris 2). He advises you to "Settle down and think about it for a while before starting a flame war." (Harris 2). Consider the presentation of your message: Writing in all uppercase letters tends to convey anger or shouting.
Breaking up text using short lines and paragraphs and spaces is helpful in keeping your message readable. Using lists and indentation helps make your points stand out clearly. When sending an email pay attention to the distribution list before forwarding received mail to someone else. The recipient might have a copy of that item already. It is important to balance informing those who need to know with sending information to too many people. Send a carbon copy (cc: ) to those who may be affected by your message or who may have information or suggestions to add.
Do not forward or edit an email message without the original sender's consent. As Harris puts it "Use some kind of visual indication to distinguish between text quoted from the original message and your new text - this makes the reply much easier to follow." (Harris 2). This is particularly important in the case where the sender may consider the contents sensitive. If you don't understand a particular item, ask the sender for clarification before replying to an incorrect conclusion. In a reply, include the relevant parts of the original message for clarity, but keep the quotations to a minimum. Otherwise, simply attach the original message.
Cite your information clearly and correctly, even if you are paraphrasing. When ending an email always use a signature because it identifies who you are and includes means of contacting you, but keep it short. Remember that electronic email is about communication with other people. When you compose an e-mail message, read it over before sending it and ask yourself what your reaction would be if you received it. Anytime spent on making out email clearer is time well spent. Works Cited Angell, David, and Brent Heslop.
The Elements of E-Mail Style: Communication Effectively Via Electronic Mail. Canada: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994. Harris, David. "Electronic Mail Etiquette." School of Computing. 1997. Queens University 14 July 2003.
Miller, Samantha. E-Mail Etiquette: Do's and Don " ts and Disaster Tales from People Magazine's Internet Manners Expert. New York: Warner Books, Inc. , 2001.