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Email Etiquette

Email is now a very important form of business communication. Like a snail mail letter, however, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and proper etiquette are important in an email message. Let's look at some guidelines:

  • Eliminate ALL CAPS. It is considered to be SHOUTING and rude.
  • Don't request delivery or read receipts. If you want to make sure that someone received or read an email, pick up the phone.
  • Do not overuse the high priority option.
  • Email can be cold and impersonal. If you receive an email from someone who seems upset, re-read it several times and make sure the sender is truly upset. If the sender is upset, consider a telephone reply instead of an email. If you have no phone number, assume that the sender was not upset, and reply with a smile on your email (figuratively).
  • If you get into a send and reply cycle with someone, break the cycle by making a phone call.
  • Don't respond to an email when you are angry. Emails can be stored on a computer and/or easily forwarded to other people. If you wouldn't want an email read to a jury or your mother, don't send it.
  • One of the most important parts of an email is the subject line. Make sure it accurately summarizes the content of the email. Think of it as the title for your book. You wouldn't call a book about cats, "Why I hate dogs." It might be true, but it is not effective.
  • Always use spell check and proof-read your email. Nothing is less professional than poor spelling.
  • Keep your paragraphs short and consider using bullet points.
  • Do not ask to recall a message sent in error.
  • Do not forward chain letter, joke, virus warnings, political, or religious emails unless the recipient has asked to receive them in advance. Even then, never forward emails with crass language, racial epithets, lewd or suggestive material. Such behavior is inappropriate, and if it is forwarded again, it will have your email address immortalized as part of the header.
  • Do not flame. Expressing extreme anger or emotion in an email is considered flaming.
  • It is not appropriate in business emails to use emoticons such as :) [smile] or :( [frown].
  • Do not use acronyms in business emails such as BTW (by the way), IMHO (in my humble opinion), or ROFL (roll on floor laughing).
  • Use Bcc. Bcc is short for Blind Carbon Copy. Bcc recipients will receive a copy of the message, but their email addresses do not show up in the email envelope. Bcc recipients are invisible to each other. Only recipients in the To: or Cc: recipients show up in the envelope. To protect every recipient's privacy, put your email address in the To: box, and put everyone else in the Bcc: box.
  • Careful with "Reply All." Make sure you do not hit the "Reply All" button when you mean to simply "Reply." Reply All sends your reply to every recipient in both the To: and Cc: fields of the email.


James G. Lewis


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