E-mail has gone from being a nice-to-have form of communication to a need-to-have form of communication in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, the learning curve for e-mail etiquette in business communications seems a bit slower. To avoid common e-mail business blunders, try these 17 tips.
1. Don’t send confidential information. With a single mouse click, your information can be forwarded to anyone. Make sure you would be comfortable seeing your e-mail on the front page of your local newspaper or your company’s bulletin board.
2. Don’t use all uppercase or all lowercase letters. Using all uppercase letters looks like shouting, and using all lowercase letters looks like laziness. Follow standard writing guidelines as a professional courtesy.
3. Make your subject line specific. A message with the generic “Hi” doesn’t help the reader prioritize messages. The reader needs to know whether to read your e-mail immediately, save it for later, or delete it.
4. Include a greeting and close. Remember, you are communicating with a person, not a computer.
5. Keep a business tone. Never respond in anger or use inappropriate language. Whatever you write could come back to haunt you. Even deleted messages can be retrieved.
6. Keep the message concise. Try to keep the entire message viewable without scrolling. Long e-mails usually elicit a groan from the recipient. Use the phone for lengthy discussions.
7. Use your signature file function. Be sure your e-mail includes your address, e-mail address, and phone numbers. Then, the recipient can print out the e-mail and contact you by several methods. Plus, your address indicates your time zone.
8. Double-check the recipients before sending the e-mail. Without this check, you can easily send your e-mail to the wrong people. Have you ever intended to forward a message, but inadvertently sent it back to the sender?
9. Avoid overusing “Reply all.” Don’t annoy people by sending messages they don’t need to see.
10. Check grammar and spelling before sending an e-mail. You can run a check of grammar and spelling. But you should also proofread because the wrong word may be spelled correctly.
11. Don’t forward messages with pages of “mail to” information before the content. Delete all extraneous information, such as memo to, addresses, and date lines.
12. When responding to a question, include the question in your response. Receiving a message that just says “yes” or “no” can confuse the reader.
13. Don’t forward inappropriate messages. This includes chain letters, jokes in bad taste, and the like.
14. Try to keep to a single topic. This makes it easier for people to respond and easier to file. If this isn’t possible, number your items, so both of you can respond easily.
15. Be proactive in your responses. Do everything you can to stop the exchange of e-mails. If you think your response will prompt a question, answer it.
16. When sending an e-mail to multiple addresses, use “BCC.” People don’t like having their e-mail addresses broadcast to the public.
17. Use your auto-responder when you aren’t available. People will know you are gone for a period of time and won’t wonder if you received their e-mail.
Following these 17 tips will help you gain the benefits of e-mail without offending your recipient’s sense of appropriateness. Remember, common courtesy and good sense go a long way in matters of e-mail etiquette.
Kathleen D. Pagana, PhD, RN, Keynote Speaker and Author, is a Professor Emeritus at Lycoming College and President of Pagana Seminars & Presentations. She can be contacted at www.KathleenPagana.com.
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