Email ettiquette tips: keeping your email cool

Email ettiquette tips: keeping your email cool

E-mail is an amazingly helpful tool but it is also a largely impersonal one. Working in isolation on your notebook without face-to-face contact can lead to a wide range of miscommunications.

In fact, how we communicate often depends on whether we physically interact or do our ‘talking’ through e-mail. People often ‘say’ things through e-mail that they would never say to someone’s face.  Learn some ways to mind your e-mail manners.

This is particularly obvious to anyone who has ever been ‘flamed’ (that is, having received an angry, embarrassing, or offensive e-mail).

Without any facial expressions, voice intonations or any other cues, it is easy to misread an e-mail. Was it intended as straightforward, ironic or humorous? Even a sentence such as ‘you did great work today’ can take on a thousand different meanings depending on who wrote it, and how you feel at the time.

For the writer, who may rarely (if ever) see the intended recipient, there is no social blocker in place to mediate their behavior. Whether angry, upset or simply uncaring, there is nothing in place to stop them from fully expressing themselves.

Even if they had no overt intention to cause offence, what they may assume is innocent, even funny, can come across as rude, patronizing and insulting.

Here’s a few quick tips to help you keep you cool under pressure, whether you feel the need to flame someone or whether you’ve just been flamed yourself.

Before you send

1.  Always think twice

Okay, you’re angry or upset. Write your e-mail. Save it. Read it. Go have a coffee. Read it again. Then ask yourself the big question – is it really worth sending? Chances are it isn’t.

2. Keep it clean

Remember that everyone will interpret things differently. Jokes, pictures and lewd comments can truly offend.

3. Empathise with the reader

Think of the things you don’t like to receive in an e-mail. For example, are people always shouting IMPORTANT things in upper case, using hundreds of abbreviations and emoticons, sending large attachments? If you don’t like receiving certain things, why send them to others?

4.  Check the ‘send to’ list before you send

Believe it or not, everyone doesn’t want to read your e-mail and you just might be sending your scathing thoughts about someone to everyone.

Tip: Draft your e-mail first – leaving who it is intended for in the To: line blank. If you accidentally hit “send” before you actually intended to, a prompt will remind you to input the recipient’s e-mail address. It’s a direct way to make sure your messages don’t go out before you want them to and gives you time to consider who really needs to be on the receiving end of the message.

5. Be polite

Whether at your desk or texting a message from your phone, saying ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’ in the introduction, anywhere throughout, or even waiting until the end of the message can make a huge difference.

6. Resist temptation

Yes, something was said. Yes, maybe you were criticized. Perhaps you were CC’d on an exchange between a colleague and your boss. How you respond next will say everything about you. Remember, once something is said, it can never be taken back.

7. See Point 1.

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