The Rules of Email Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor:

I am a busy person, but I always make sure I read all my office emails during the day. What bothers me most of the times is the fact that I get a lot of useless emails. I appreciate the value of the new technology, but I'm bothered that most people do not know how to really make full use of this. How can I educate other managers in the office on the proper use of email? Please help.



Dear Bothered:

Right on! It's easy to abuse electronic mail. For one thing, most people think of it as just a scribbled note. When it comes to being in cyberspace, people often mistakenly feel that, because they can't be seen, it's okay to say or do anything online. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I suggest you call a meeting of managers and produce an office policy for electronic mail. Point out that it's a valuable business tool, not a toy and not a resource to be wasted. Here are some things to consider:

Presenting yourself well is just as important online as it is in person. In fact, one rule of electronic etiquette is that if you wouldn't say something to a person face to face, don't say it in cyberspace. If you have to ask yourself whether something will be interpreted correctly, don't say it.

Electronic mail messages should look good. That means use proper grammar, check your spelling and punctuation. Don't write in all capitals; that's the cyber-equivalent of shouting. Your notes should have some physical order, not just a bunch of run-on lines that make it difficult to read. And, of course, swearing and cursing only make you look bad. So does too much slang, especially when you can't hear the tone of voice someone is using.

Just as we resent it when others waste our time in the real world, it's an abuse and an insult to waste anyone's time online.


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