Tuesday, December 18, 2012

E-mail Etiquette – Don’t Regret Pressing Send!


E-mail has become a part of our busy lives, and many of us use e-mail as one tool to communicate not only to family and friends, but to conduct business every day.  However, not all of our e-mails are read, many more are not responded to.  The busier we become the less likely we are to take the time to write a well phrased, and properly constructed, e-mail – especially to family and friends – and the rules of texting are significantly different and only confuse the rules of e-mail further.

While the e-mail rules for writing to family and friends, the rules for writing to business associates, work colleagues, and acquaintances haven’t changed:  and we wonder why we don’t always get a response.  Remember that when you write to someone, you’re asking them for a bit of their time; it takes time to read what you’ve written, to think about it, and to compose a response.  Here are a few tips to have your message read and responded to by others:

  1. Know your audience: is the person you’re writing a friend, an acquaintance, or a new contact?  Understanding your audience, and writing to them from their perspective, with appropriate grammar and construction is important to have your message read and understood. 
  2. Use a well-thought subject line that conveys your message accurately and quickly:  In many cases it will determine whether or not your message is opened and read.  Take the time to select a straightforward subject line that succinctly identifies the reason for your e-mail. 
  3. Know your purpose for writing:  are you sharing good news, not expecting a response?  Writing to elicit a response?  Just because you can send information faster than ever before, it does not mean that you should send it. Analyze your readers' needs to make certain that you are sending a message that will be both clear and useful.
  4. Write concisely, with proper grammar, assuming the person to whom you are writing receives a lot of e-mail.  People are busy and unless you write clearly, concisely and with strong construction, others may not choose to respond – and don’t get angry if you don’t get a response because it might be your use of grammar, writing style, or length of message that you don’t get a message in return.
  5. Imagine how others would respond if your e-mail were shared publicly: once you send an e-mail, the recipient can do with it whatever they want.  Avoid embarrassing moments by carefully constructing your emails for potential public consumption, including proofreading your document before you sent it. Rub the document thru the spell checker and/or the grammar checker.
  6. Including someone as a Cc: on an email can be an effective way of including others, but remember: when you send a message to more than one address using the Cc: field, both the original recipient and all the recipients of the carbon copies can see all the e-mail addresses in the To: and Cc: fields. Each person who receives the message will be able to see the addresses of everyone else who received it.


Before you click send, consider:


  • Is this message suitable for e-mail, or could I better communicate the information with a letter, phone call, or face-to-face meeting?


  • What is my purpose for sending this e-mail? Will the message seem important to the receiver, or will it be seen as an annoyance and a waste of time?


  • Have I provided enough context for my audience to easily understand or follow the thread of the message?


  • How many e-mails does the reader usually receive, and what will make him/her read this message (or delete it)?


  • Does the formality, style, punctuation, and grammar of my writing fit the expectations of my audience?


There are many more tips and tricks to effective e-mail communication, including Cc:’ing too many people, Bcc’ing people when not appropriate, creating digital footprints, and attaching files that everyone can open.  But if I included all of those topics, this blog would be too long for my intended audience.   If you like what you’ve read, comment on this page, and more tips and tricks will be included in an upcoming blog entry.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Dr. Schulte. This information was very helpful. More information regarding e-mail tips and techniques as you referenced at the end of your blog would be appreciated so we can optimize our e-mail communication.

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