Though email may have rendered the idea of sitting at a desk and corresponding with actual ink on actual paper with our actual hands a quaint notion, the truth is that digital communication has made etiquette even more important.
Electronic mail has created new ways to demonstrate mastery of social skill…or lack thereof. Below are five of the most useful tips to be conscious of when corresponding via email.
- Add The Address Last
This simple technique will prevent emails from being sent too early.
Focus on the content of the email first, and when you’ve said what you want to say, how you want to say it, and taken some time to think it over, then add the recipients and the address. Aside from helping you catch typos, it can also give you needed “cool down” time so that you don’t send the wrong message indelicate situations.
- DON’T YELL
By now most people (with the possible exception of your grandparents and some primitive tribes in South America) know that capital letters equal volume when you’re communicating online. So this tip is really more an admonition to make sure you don’t type with the caps lock on.
- Be Brief
With all the spam and junk mail adding to all the emails people actually need to read, it takes no time to fill an inbox but a lot of time to empty it. Appreciating someone’s time is a sign of respect, be succinct not only in the content of your email, but in the subject line as well.
In the Twitter era (Twittera?), people have gotten skilled at condensing information into a mere 140 characters. This proficiency will serve you well, even when writing longer messages. In some cases, the objective of an email can be achieved in the the subject line alone. If so, this delivers the message to your recipient and saves them the time of opening and reading the entire email. Then again, if you can say it that briefly, consider whether a text might be more efficient.
- : )
Emoticons are an example of the distinction between digital and analog communication. (Sure, people have drawn pictures in letters before, but online these “i-roglyphics” are more prevalent and effective for communicating.) Emoticons communicate tone and are the equivalent of slang in spoken conversation, so there are times when they are acceptable to use and times when they’re not.
Acceptable : )
Casual conversations with friends and family.
Unacceptable : (
Messages to a current or potential employer, teacher, or public official.
- Give Your Technology A Human Touch
Whether your message comes via iPad or paper, grammar rules, proper spelling, and clear thought are still important. Take the time to review an email before sending and don’t rely on spell-check or auto-correct to proof your work. Spell-check is great for catching mutant, freak of nature mistakes, but remember: it doesn’t know what you’re trying to say and might replace a word it thinks is incorrect even though it’s the word you intended—and don’t even get us started on auto-correct.
Think of the computer as your personal Sorcerer’s Apprentice: it means well and is eager to help, but you can’t really leave it unsupervised.