Professional E-mail Conduct

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Professional E-mail Conduct

Danny de HekHave you ever received a e-mail complaint addressed to yourself and noticed the sender has CC the e-mail to a group of friends and/or business colleagues? Would you agree that messaging a person in this manner is appalling and disgraceful, specially in Business these days!

Using the Internet to rubbish people, air your dirty laundry or vent/rant is simply wrong, cowardly, one sided and achieves very little. These days people can hide behind their computer screens instead of picking up the telephone or taking the time to discuss the matter face to face in person. These people clearly have one goal in mind, to sabotage, hurt and to have a personal rant hoping to gain backing or support from others, when to be honest it makes them look unprofessional and cowardly.

So as you may have worked out this happened to me recently so it got me thinking what is e-mail etiquette? What should e-mail be used for?

I remember opening my first e-mail account and thinking how much fun it was to send a message to a friend. However, most people now no longer find e-mail simple or fun. E-mail messaging now exceeds telephone traffic and is the dominant form of business communication. Some professionals tell me that handling e-mail consumes half of their day.

Don’t you wish that every person who received a new e-mail account had to agree to follow certain rules to use it? There are certain professional standards expected for e-mail use. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding professional e-mail conduct:

12 tips for better e-mail etiquette

  1. Danny de HekBe informal, not sloppy. Your colleagues may use commonly accepted abbreviations in e-mail, but when communicating with external customers, everyone should follow standard writing protocol. Your e-mail message reflects you and your company, so traditional spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules apply.
  2. Keep messages brief and to the point. Just because your writing is grammatically correct does not mean that it has to be long. Nothing is more frustrating than wading through an e-mail message that is twice as long as necessary. Concentrate on one subject per message whenever possible.
  3. Use sentence case. USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS LOOKS AS IF YOU’RE SHOUTING. Using all lowercase letters looks lazy. For emphasis, use asterisks or bold formatting to emphasize important words. Do not, however, use a lot of colors or graphics embedded in your message, because not everyone uses an e-mail program that can display them.
  4. Use the blind copy and courtesy copy appropriately. Don’t use BCC to keep others from seeing who you copied; it shows confidence when you directly CC anyone receiving a copy. Do use BCC, however, when sending to a large distribution list, so recipients won’t have to see a huge list of names. Be cautious with your use of CC; overuse simply clutters inboxes. Copy only people who are directly involved.
  5. Don’t use e-mail as an excuse to avoid personal contact. Don’t forget the value of face-to-face or even voice-to-voice communication. E-mail communication isn’t appropriate when sending confusing or emotional messages. Think of the times you’ve heard someone in the office indignantly say, “Well, I sent you e-mail.” If you have a problem with someone, speak with that person directly. Don’t use e-mail to avoid an uncomfortable situation or to cover up a mistake.
  6. Remember that e-mail isn’t private. I’ve seen people fired for using e-mail inappropriately. E-mail is considered company property and can be retrieved, examined, and used in a court of law. Unless you are using an encryption device (hardware or software), you should assume that e-mail over the Internet is not secure. Never put in an e-mail message anything that you wouldn’t put on a postcard. Remember that e-mail can be forwarded, so unintended audiences may see what you’ve written. You might also inadvertently send something to the wrong party, so always keep the content professional to avoid embarrassment.
  7. Be sparing with group e-mail. Send group e-mail only when it’s useful to every recipient. Use the “reply all” button only when compiling results requiring collective input and only if you have something to add. Recipients get quite annoyed to open an e-mail that says only “Me too!”
  8. email-iconUse the subject field to indicate content and purpose. Don’t just say, “Hi!” or “From Laura.” Agree on acronyms to use that quickly identify actions. For example, your team could use <AR> to mean “Action Required” or <MSR> for the Monthly Status Report. It’s also a good practice to include the word “Long” in the subject field, if necessary, so that the recipient knows that the message will take time to read.
  9. Don’t send chain letters, virus warnings, or junk mail. Always check a reputable antivirus Web site or your IT department before sending out an alarm. If a constant stream of jokes from a friend annoys you, be honest and ask to be removed from the list. Direct personal e-mail to your home e-mail account.
  10. Remember that your tone can’t be heard in e-mail. Have you ever attempted sarcasm in an e-mail, and the recipient took it the wrong way? E-mail communication can’t convey the nuances of verbal communication. In an attempt to infer tone of voice, some people use emoticons, but use them sparingly so that you don’t appear unprofessional. Also, don’t assume that using a smiley will diffuse a difficult message.
  11. Use a signature that includes contact information. To ensure that people know who you are, include a signature that has your contact information, including your mailing address, Web site, and phone numbers.
  12. Summarize long discussions. Scrolling through pages of replies to understand a discussion is annoying. Instead of continuing to forward a message string, take a minute to summarize it for your reader. You could even highlight or quote the relevant passage, then include your response. Some words of caution:
  • If you are forwarding or reposting a message you’ve received, do not change the wording.
  • If you want to repost to a group a message that you received individually, ask the author for permission first.
  • Give proper attribution.

Use these suggestions as a starting point to create e-mail etiquette rules that will help your team stay efficient and professional.

2016-11-17T10:25:10+00:00

About the Author:

Danny de Hek

Like most people, I have many passions, goals and dreams. As a self made business professional, my focus is helping my clients, associates and friends, build, strengthen and maintain their success. It would be fair to say I am in the full time business of building relationships and feel my purpose and skill is connecting the right people with the right people.

My professional work tends to dominate my personal life, to the horror of my partner and business mentor. They both fully support me yet give me the hard truths when I need to hear this. I am always investing in my personal development to have a fulfilled work/life balance. I enjoy Target Shooting, Hiking & Mountain Biking to clear the brain and to take the guilt away when indulging at a quirky cafe for a cooked breakfast or brunch.

My passion for travelling has seen me experience the world on many occasions, my next adventure will be doing the Tibet Rail Journey on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from Lhasa to Golmud as long as they have Wi-Fi aboard ;-) I have many goals I still wish to achieve but am pretty chuffed that I have accomplished so many of these already.

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