Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Basic email etiquette

This is from Dawn D’Angelillo, of Small Dog Electronics (a Mac retailer in Vermont). I thought it was worth sharing with all of you. It's longer than my usual post, but if you read all of it, you might improve your life!

1. Never type in ALL CAPS unless you are very angry.

2. Provide white space. Reading small type without some white space can be very hard on the eyes.

3. Be brief. People who read hundreds of emails each day tend to skim over the very long ones.

4. Always remember that people take the written word very seriously. I often find it difficult not to sound too extreme when I'm sending emails. Trying not to sound too clinical or terse after responding to 40 emails can be hard.

5. Try to include the message thread and at least the pertinent thread. This makes it a lot easier to recall the original question. Also, include a meaningful subject line. When inboxes are overflowing with spam, it's easy to miss an important email if it has a lame subject like "file" or “meeting."

6. Pause before hitting send. Have you sent email to the wrong person with dire consequences? It is easy to misaddress an email. Be careful. Never send something by email that you don't want the world to read, or be prepared to face the consequences.

7. When sending to a list, it doesn't hurt to be completely obsessed with the details. It's my responsibility to send electronic newsletters to Small Dog Electronics' lists. This is something that I tend to rush through rather than being a stickler for details. This past week, I incorrectly pasted information into the subject line of our Tech Tails newsletter. As I watched it leave my outbox, I felt ready to die of dishonor. I've developed a checklist to make sure that I don't continue to screw up. I advise a similar action if you frequently send
newsletters or announcements to large groups.

8. Determine when to include carbon copies and when to reply all. My rules are:

Cc: Used when no action is needed by the reader, but you want him or her to be party to the conversation. If any action is needed by the reader, don't Cc, but put him or her in the "To" field.

Reply All (which sends the message to everyone -- the sender and all other recipients): Only use Reply All when your answer has some effect on all the readers. Do not reply all when the answer is only for the sender. An example of when not to reply all would be when you receive a reminder for an upcoming meeting that was sent to 100 people and you want to tell the sender that you will be there with a quick "I'll see you then!" This doesn't need to go to 100 people.

Bcc: Use when sending to a group of people, since many may not want their email addresses publicized.

9. It is not necessary to respond with just "Thank you." When I first starting working at a computer company, I sent what I thought was a polite response to a coworker that simply said "Thank you!" after he answered a question. Boy, did I get told off for what I thought was a nice gesture. As I learned more, I realized what a pain it is to stop what you're doing to open an email and then read nothing more than "OK, thanks!" A simple thank you became an annoying inconvenience for the receiver. Now, I thank people in advance to avoid a second interruption.

Happy Emailing!


Julie Layne said...

Then again, it's frustrating to send an email and get no response, then wait and wonder, only to find out three weeks later that they didn't get it for some reason. I kind of like the brief "thanks" acknowledgment myself if it's an important message or request.

regressivepresby said...