10 Email Etiquette Tips: One of the most prevalent means of modern communication is electronic mail (e-mail); the ability to send messages from one person to recipients via the computer. This media has been widely abused and misused with the largest blame going to lack of information of things to avoid when using email. There are things that people do while using this facility that drive the bulk of the recipients up the wall. There are hundreds of does and don’ts hence in this article I single out a few crucial issues pertaining to email usage. I have used emails for over a decade. This is one of the best ways to communicate but like any other facility, it is subject to abuse and mis-use. Abuse has always been seen to come out situations where purpose of the facility is unclear. Email is with us for some time to come hence there is need for users to practice etiquette so that everyone using it enjoys doing so.
1. Open emails speedily and respond – It is very frustrating to send emails and not get a single response. One will begin to wonder if the emails did even go through or they are simply delayed. Responding to an email is not necessary to confirm that you have read all attachments etc. You can respond to simply communicate that you have received and you will read in greater detail at a later time. It gives the sender a peace of mind. While I am encouraging you to open emails speedily, exercise caution on suspicious subjects and attachments lest your machine gets to be infected with viruses.
2. Be clear what you want to communicate – Long winding emails never get the attention of the reader. Get to the point quicker to ensure people read and understand your point with the least amount of words. I am not advocating that you begin to use slang and shorthand on email. People have just become busy owing to increase in demands in the workplace and life in general. Your subject should match what you have in the message body and attachment. Avoid deceiving people through enticing subject and body text yet the attachment falls short of expectations. Always ensure you spruce up your email, double check to see if all you wanted to say has been said. It is annoying to write four times about the same subject while adding a little bit more information with each email. People will tend to wait for version four of your email always if they notice a trend. Be clear in your email if it for someone’s information or for their action.
3. Organize and manage your emails – When you are organized, you become more efficient with your emails hence it becomes an exciting experience. The first thing I do as I open my mailbox is to select all spam or junk mail and flag it as such and trash immediately. I also create folders to store emails in different categories. To automate the process of archiving, I create email rules that help to put emails into different folders without my interference. Emails that I do not find value in are immediately deleted as well to make way for useful. You will definitely find out that doing this will enable you to handle hundreds of emails without any sign of fatigue. To avoid forgetting to follow-up on emails, I usual flag the emails as Unread so that they keep drawing my attention. It helps me stay on the ball as I cannot stand unread emails for too long. I get shocked when I see people with 400 unread messages, important messages are hidden among the not so useful emails hence deadlines are missed, appointments are postponed etc.
4. Watch out the way you address – Know who you are sending the message to, who are you carbon copying (cc) for information and who are you blind carbon copying (bcc) meaning they receive a copy of the email and yet other recipients do not get to know about it. When distributing a newsletter or emailing in to hundreds of people, always put addresses under bcc. The sending of unsolicited emails across the entire web is because people reveal the addresses of others unnecessarily. It can be annoying. Similarly, in the event that you receive an email from someone which was copied to 5 other people, use the reply option to send a response to the sender not reply all. Reply all will send your response to everyone who received the email. Use reply all in situations where it is absolutely necessary.
5. Email Formatting and Accuracy is Important – It is important to note that email is merely a replacement of the usual hand written letter in the old days. People used to be very cautious with how their letters were formatted before. Now, even with tools and utilities available to format emails nicely, check spelling, grammar and so on, people still send raw, erroneous emails to recipients. Always check for spellings to ensure you communicate what you originally intended to say. It is easy to communicate the opposite. Scanning your email using your eyes only will not help you remove errors your mind is blind to. Sometimes walking away from the email and coming back after a few minutes will reveal to you all the error. Refrain from typing in ALL YELLING CAPS or all lazy small letters as both communicate an attitude. Avoid multiple colors on your emails. It is not about the decorations and background but the message. Avoid emoticons as much as possible especially on business related emails. Funny looking fonts can be annoying as they make someone take longer to read an email. Avoid them.
6. Appropriate Attachment Management is necessary – From time to time you may want the recipient to have access an attached file. Do not assume that all recipients have the same version of programs to open the attachments. Save attachments in a format that can be opened by any version of program the recipient may have. Huge file attachments need to be compressed for ease of movement. Some servers truncate huge attachments hence your information does not get received. Always send a separate email to confirm receipt of huge attachments. Not everyone has a high speed internet connection to download. Never assume that because you know the sender of the email you can trust their attachments. Viruses usually come attached to emails hence where the receiver’s machine is vulnerable with no virus protection, it gets infected after attachment is executed or opened.
7. Be careful with those Forwards – Assess the benefit or usefulness and validity of an email before forwarding to others. Some “special offers” etc are merely hoaxes or spam. You may not know what the emails will trigger in the people you send to. The quality and types of emails you peddle have an impact on how people view you. Always take the time to type a personal comment to accompany the email so that the person receiving knows you have read and what you want them to do. If you can’t type the comment they you shouldn’t bother forwarding. Be careful to forward emails of a political or sexual nature. People receiving the email may not appreciate your “generosity”. In companies I worked for, we agreed that anyone found peddling nudity and sexual humor would be banned totally or face disciplinary action. Non business material is a waste of business resource. You may not have originated the message but being seeing forwarding 30 messages (even inspirational ones) a day seems outrageous. Avoid mass mailing people who didn’t ask you for that service. I know how I feel when I get those mass mailed items hence I do not seek to do it to others.
8. Practice email courtesy – In the event that you send a message which you then realize is a hoax, be courteous enough to send an apology. Sometimes you may send a message meaning one thing but recipients may read it in a different context raising an outrage. Don’t add insult to injury by responding in anger, simply clarify what you meant. There is no reason for using the email system to fight wars of words. There is no such time to waste. Before you get upset over “people not replying”, kindly check your trash or junk-mail folder in case replies were automatically archived in error.
9. Handling Emotional email – Emails you write while emotionally charged sometimes lead to regrets. Unlike a letter which after writing you have time with it before you reach the postboxes; once you hit send in most cases it is hard to recall the message. Always step back and ask yourself if the response you are giving will be consistent the following day. Wait till that day and send the message. You will realize that a lot of spikes will fall off as they mis-communicate or cause the recipient to develop a communication barrier. Human beings are emotional beings. Any statement you say can easily have 8 different connotations being read by 8 different people because they are largely from different background and experiences. They also have varying levels of emotional strength. Be wary of statements that may cause the opposite sex to stumble such as “Much Love, Miss you, Lots of hugs and kisses”. Be sensitive to the recipient.
10. Final Advice – Just because you have a person’s email address does not mean you can share it anyone. If anyone wants the email they should look for it on their own. Avoid using your business email address on online subscriptions. Use your private address as business email address should be for business only. Safeguard your email by forwarding a copy to your private address. Even if your machine gets stolen or damaged, you will still have a backup of your emails. You never know when you will require the evidence of you having sent an email. It may be the email that you use to exonerate yourself from being charged or sentenced in a court of law. When using your business email to send a contribution or opinion, always include a disclaimer that shows that your view is not that of your employer otherwise use personal email address to send personal views and mindsets. The last thing you ever need is for your employer’s domain to be blacklisted.
Rabison Shumba is a young African entrepreneur who has interests in Information and Communication Technology, Agriculture and Mining. He is also a motivational speaker, trainer and author. His book, The Greatness Manual and various online articles are tools for personal and professional development. Together with 100 other Career Experts, Rabison co-authored the 101 Great Ways to Enhance your Career. Rabison has a personal vision of impacting the lives of children in marginalized communities by creating platforms for career counsel and guidance, information empowerment and capacity building through the Greatness Factory Trust, where he currently holds the position of Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Acting Executive Director. He is actively involved in the organization of career enhancement and guidance colloquiums to propel and inspire both young and mature professionals to greatness. His areas of expertise include strategy, leadership, personal and professional development. Rabison is married to Jackie, and they have two daughters. They reside in Harare, Zimbabwe. [http://www.greatnessmanual.com] or http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/rshumba