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Dr. Shirley Says...

Netiquette: Basic Guidelines

"E-mail is now as necessary as the telephone for the average working man and woman."

  
In the past decade, e-mail has become the lifeblood of modern business communication. E-mail is now as necessary as the telephone for the average working man and woman. In fact, in some situations, e-mail has become more important than the telephone, fax and pager for connecting distance organizations across time zones and cultures.

These days, e-mail users can be found in most places of business and across the entire spectrum of workers. It is even rare these days to exchange business cards without an imprinted e-mail address, usually right below or next to the telephone number.

I think most of us will agree that e-mail matters, and it matters big time for most of us. E-mail enables to us to conduct business most effectively and efficiently, stay in touch with family and friends who we might otherwise talk to only a few time a year. Even my 81-year-old mother has e-mail capabilities.

These days there seems to be a growing trend to abuse the use of e-mail. Though e-mail is an informal method of communicating, some basic rules of style do apply.

1. DON'T TYPE IN ALL CAPS. This can be perceived as shouting and is also difficult to read.

2. Avoid making mistakes in grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation in e-mail. It is rude because the recipient may then have difficulty reading and understanding the message. It also sends a negative impression.

3. E-mail is not a vehicle for lengthy treatises. Messages should be direct, concise and succinct. This way, they will be read and get a response.

4. Do not get caught up in the traditional e-mail culture of abbreviating and using acronyms and characters. E-mail in business is for communicating, and many users will not know the meaning of character messages, BTW (by the way). Abbreviations are distracting, confusing and reduce the effectiveness and productivity gain of this form of communicating.

5. Business e-mail salutations depend on the circumstances and how personal the e-mail is. A first name, a Dear Mr./Mrs. And last name, or no name at all are all acceptable, depending on how formal you should be. As a rule, if you would address a paper letter, Dear Mr. Smith,@ you should address e-mail the same.

6. The close of an e-mail message reflects the balance between brevity and intimacy with the recipient. Although a close can contain just your first name, in more formal instances you may want to copy your form from a paper letter.

7. Write descriptive subject lines. Use the subject line wisely to summarize your message and inform the reader why your message should be read as a priority among the other 125 messages they received that day.

8. When forwarding messages, put your comments at the top of the message.

9. Use emoticons (smileys) when trying to convey a tone of voice :-), but use them sparingly.

10. Read over your e-mail before you send it. Although e-mail is a more informal method of communication than a letter, be sure you make your point clear and concise. Use a spell checker if available.

11. Be careful when addressing mail. There are addresses which may go to a group but the address looks like it is just one person. Know to whom you are sending.

12. Watch cc’s when replying. Don’t continue to include people if the messages have become a 2-way conversation.

13. Remember that when communicating with others across the globe, if you send a message to which you want an immediate response, the person receiving it might be at home asleep when it arrives. Give them a chance to wake up, get to work, and login before assuming the mail didn’t arrive. Perhaps telephoning would be a better way to go.

14. Finally, consider carefully what your write; it is a permanent record and can be easily forwarded to others. E-mail is not the proper route for confidential messages nor extremely personal messages. Always ask the question, Would I enjoy seeing my message on the front page of the local daily newspaper?

 

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