Mind Your Manners … on email!

EmailDave Johnson contributed an article to CBSMoneyWatch entitled, 9 Keys to Email Etiquette.

Email manners is a contemporary skill that must be mastered. Our knowledge and understanding of proper email manners and rules may inadvertently offend personal, business and professional relationships.

Email has emerged as one of the most popular forms of communication. It also seems very casual. When we actually wrote letters, we were careful to ensure that spelling and the structural mechanics of writing were carefully observed. But email has it’s a unique set of rules and conventions. I believe that the lexicon of other forms of social media have encroached and penetrated email conventions. Worst of all, this phenomenon has crept into business and professional related emails.

Five of these rules, in a business and professional context resonated with me.  However, you can read the original article here.

Here are my top five:

  1. Don’t reply if you are on the CC line. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but you are copied for “information only.” Unless you are specifically invited to join the conversation or reply, do not.
  2. Bottom line up front. Get right to the point that you want to make. The inverted pyramid method, as used in newspaper and magazine articles is a good reply format choice. Don’t force your readers to wade through a lot of verbiage to figure out what action you want them to take.
  3. Answer relevant questions. Consider cherry-picking long emails and only respond to the questions, or the issues related to your work. Respond to relevant issues or question even if it means admitting that you do not have enough information to craft a sufficient response. Also, suggest that you will respond later with an appropriate response.
  4. Exercise care in your tone. It is sometimes difficult to determine “tone” in an email. In a personal context, emoticons may be appropriate, but avoided in a business and professional context.
  5. Know the specific cultural mores at your company. Virtually, every rule has exceptions. You must understand the specific etiquette of your own organization. If you are not sure of any aspect of the local email etiquette, ask your team leader or associate. Organizations vary as to the desired level of formality that is observed in various form of communication.

There’s no universal guidance that will apply to every situation. Just, be careful. One last point: Don’t hide people in the “BCC” line of an email because if they later choose to “reply all,” you will be exposed as someone who may not be trustworthy with information, confidential or otherwise.

Related Articles:   WRITE … but not “wrongly”!   and   Four Steps to a Better Presentation

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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