Email Etiquette - 6 Key Guidelines to Consider Before You Hit Send
For many, email correspondence has improved business efficiency on many levels. Sending an email can save time and money as well as provide a virtual paper trail of information sent and received.
While the internet and email can provide quick and easy access to information and interactions, there are some issues of etiquette to consider. First, not all computer users view email the same way. Some people use email for business purposes only, others for a social outlet and sometimes a balance between the two. It's important to know what people on your email contact list want to receive and what they don't.
Many businesses have strict electronic communication policies that prohibit inappropriate content and clearly state that information created and distributed from workplace computers is the property of the company. While common, this can cause some issues. What some deem inappropriate, others do not and determining appropriate content can become a grey area. Oftentimes, when an email is sent from work the employee doesn't think of the big picture ramifications.
Here's an example.
Moses works for a large company. He's aware of the electronic communications policy but his sense of appropriate content differs from that of management. Moses receives an email from a friend that he finds completely humorous. He quickly forwards it on to his entire email contact list. The email forward shows his workplace signature (i.e. Moses Brown, Financial Advisor, XYZ Investments with address and contact numbers). The email makes it way to several hundred if not thousand recipients via forwards. The CEO of XYZ happens to be one of those recipients and doesn't share the same bent on humor that Moses does. What happens from here? Corrective action from management because Moses has violated company email policy and has poorly represented the company by sending inappropriate content that includes the company name, address and contact information.
Even if you don't work for a large corporation, your email habits can impact your individual business and how people view you.
Moses decides he'll be more cautious in the future. After all, he values his job. Moses promises he'll use electronic communications with care. A few weeks pass and Moses receives an amazing warning via email. It seems that flesh eating bananas are wreaking havoc on the nation. Concerned for the welfare of his banana eating friends, Moses quickly types out a warning and forwards the message to his entire list. Soon Moses receives e-mails from several on his list that the flesh eating bananas are a hoax. They urge him to check snopes.com before he sends anymore nonsense. Moses cannot believe it. The message he received was signed electronically by a doctor but after searching Snopes, Moses knows he needs to be even more cautious.
Moses has learned two valuable lessons.
1. Don't forward inappropriate email from work and always consider that others may not have the same sense of humor you do.
2. Check Snopes.com or another the fact checking site of your choice before forwarding warning emails and make sure the people in your email address book want to receive this information.
By now you would think that Moses is electronically savvy. While Moses is being more cautious about what he sends via email and he's learned quite a lot by visiting Snopes.com, Moses still doesn't quite have email etiquette mastered.
An important client of XYZ Insurance emails Moses regarding some information for a business claim. Moses is working on multiple projects at once and quickly replies via email before re-reading his response or using spell check. Because of the quick and immediate nature of email communication, it's easy to be more lax than you normally would when sending business correspondence. However, everything you email is a direct extension of your professional and personal credibility.
As Moses hit the send button, he noticed a typo and couldn't stop his system from sending the email. While typos do happen (even to seasoned writers) it's important to use spell check to help avoid them. In addition to the typo, when Moses pulled the email up to check some details, he noticed he had also left out a few important words and some information the client requested. Now, Moses has to take the time to contact the client again, provide ALL of the information that was initially requested and include all of the details he should have included the first time.
Moses adds a few more lessons to his list of email etiquette he'll follow in the future.
3. Thoroughly read emails requesting information and send all of the information the first time.
4. Always use spell check.
5. First email your response to your own email address so that you take the time to re-read it before sending to the intended recipient.
With some gentle reminders and trial by error, Moses is more confident with his use of etools. He doesn't worry about offending anyone or violating company policies on electronic communications. Best of all Moses has learned from his mistakes and he's working more efficiently and accurately.
But, Moses has a final lesson to learn.
Moses follows all of the aforementioned tips and sends an email to a coworker about a project he's really excited about. In his haste, he leaves the Caps Lock function on. When his coworker Sally receives the email in all Caps, she wonders why Moses is yelling at her about their mutual project. Sally is offended by this and discusses it with management. Once again, Moses learns a valuable lesson. His manager shares a sixth tip with him when he explains in the world of email, sending correspondence in all Caps is considered screaming and often viewed as impolite.
6. Make sure you use proper punctuation and formatting.
Now Moses has it down. He's careful and thoughtful about what he sends to coworkers, business associates, friends and family via e-mail. He also knows he's not done learning. There's a lot more to this email etiquette than he ever imagined.