Email Etiquette

If your work involves exchanging (a lot of) emails everyday, you may find it useful to follow email etiquette. You can find many articles on the Internet on this topic, and your employer/company may even suggest one to you. I found Email Etiquette 101 by Michael Hyatt a good article, in which he suggested 18 rules that should be followed. In summary, the rules are:

  1. Understand the difference between “To” and “CC”: know whom should be included in “To” and whom in “CC” (or “BCC”).
  2. Keep messages brief and to the point.
  3. Don’t discuss multiple subjects in a single message: instead, split it into several emails.
  4. Reply in a timely manner.
  5. Be mindful of your tone.
  6. Don’t use e-mail to criticize others: instead, talk face-to-face or use the phone.
  7. Don’t reply in anger.
  8. Don’t overuse “reply to all”: but don’t forget to use “reply to all” in certain cases.
  9. Don’t forward chain letters: I hate chain letters.
  10. Don’t “copy up” as a means of coercion: use other means, such as a direct phone call.
  11. Don’t overuse the “high priority” flag.
  12. Don’t write in ALL CAPS. And don’t overuse Internet slangs, such as: lol, rofl…
  13. Don’t send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks.
  14. Remember that company e-mail isn’t private.
  15. Use a signature with your contact information.
  16. Provide “if-then” options.
  17. Use your spell-checker.
  18. Re-read your e-mail before you send it. And don’t forget attachments.

While we are on this topic, I want to write a little more about bullet #4. Though you are not required to reply to every email as soon as you receive it, you should try to respond in a timely manner (by which I mean in a day or two at the most). Even if you cannot perform the task or answer the questions mentioned in an email immediately (or soon), you should at least write back to let them know that, for example: “I cannot answer your question now, but I will definitely get back to you in a week.”

I have a friend who has the habit of postponing email responses to as long as she likes, usually 5 days or a week. I once emailed her about a sensitive matter, which involved money, and did not receive any response from her for 4 days,  though I know for sure she was online everyday. I had to send her another email, asking (kindly) if she had received my previous email. This time she replied. I then asked her why she had not responded and if I hadn’t sent another email, would she have even bothered to answer me. She replied that she either had “something so important, so busy” that she could not reply, or needed time to think about the answer. All right, if it had been the first case, she would not have had time to post that many comments and photos on Facebook (which she did); if it had been the second case, at least she should have told me that she needed some time. A person who got a high-quality education in the US and used to work for big US companies should know more about email etiquette than that.

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