Facebook does it. Google does it. Microsoft does it. Everybody is talking about connecting the world. Making Internet connections global. But what happens when everybody gets e-mail?
There will be different etiquettes depending on where you come from. There already is. Here are some general rules, that many people tend to forget or simply don’t know about.
Mallory Fix, who teaches English as a Second Language at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “Email etiquette does vary across the globe, especially in ways to address the receiver, the directness of the message, and the closing.”
Always use a salutation and a closing. Based on your relationship, only you can decide whether deference dictates a “Dear Professor…” or “Good morning, Dr. Weber.”
Make sure you get the name and title right. A full professor is entitled to more than a modicum of respect.
Avoid trendy abbreviations and be careful of emoticons. They may be misunderstood and thus not clearly convey your meaning.
Don’t confuse email with texting or IM. Email is more formal than that. Use complete sentences, correct grammar, correct punctuation, and capitalization. Yet subject lines should be as efficient as a tweet, concisely stating what’s important and relevant.
Make sure your subject lines distinguish you from a hacker or a scammer by being current and germane. For example, “Change in Tuesday lunch meeting.”
If a subject changes, change the header! Remember that email is no place for stream of consciousness ruminations, so be direct, clear, and succinct. Respond in full sentences.
No time to respond fully to a long email? Reply to the sender that you received the email and indicate when you will be responding. Nothing is more discouraging than feeling ignored.
Just because something can be forwarded doesn’t mean it should be. Remember, too, that a recipient can forward your email, and you have no control at that point.
Patience is a virtue. Not every email gets delivered. This happens more frequently than we would like to admit. Offer people the same grace that you would like to receive on email responses.
Pick up the phone if you don’t hear back after a couple of tries. It’s not fair to assume that, for example, your email must be treated as top of the list, especially dealing with attorneys and physicians.
Remember that the person reading your email has only the words on the screen. Now think about how much our tone of voice impacts our message, so beware of sarcasm. Consider, for example, how many ways we can interpret even the simple word, “please.”
The “E” in email represents two essential reminders. First: edit, edit, edit to be sure all your facts, grammar and punctuation are correct. Second: Email is eternal.
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