When email was a new thing, there were a lot of etiquette tips flying around as we all learnt (sometimes the hard way) about communicating sans body language. These days, we’ve all got it worked out, right?
If a recent email ‘conversation’ about a touchy family issue has taught me anything, it’s that some of us still don’t get it. And even if we do, it’s good to be reminded…
Keep it simple
Concise, clear, need-to-know – that’s the key to any communication. How many emails have you received where the vital information is buried in shovel loads of unnecessary stuff? So don’t hit send until you’ve read through and edited your email.
Email ‘yelling’ is a very uncool. You probably wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) do it to the person’s face. So LOSE THE CAPITALS, inflammatory coloured fonts, and (a new one) long paragraphs in bold italics.
Responding promptly to emails shows respect. Even a quick ‘I’m onto it’ or ‘got it, thanks’ let’s the sender know you’re following up or you received their email or attachment. The alternative is a ‘blank look’ and nobody likes to be ignored.
To CC or not to CC
Keeping people ‘in the loop’ is great if it’s really necessary. But you risk desensitising them if you go crazy with the CC option – and they may overlook an important direct email from you later.
Nothing to hide
Consider why you’re blind copying someone into an email. There’s a difference between hiding something, and protecting someone’s privacy (such as sending to email lists). A good rule of thumb: if you can’t openly copy someone in on an email, don’t copy them in at all.
Last in, first out
Always respond to the last email in the conversation first, because the older stuff may have already been sorted. But do skim over the email trail before asking a question that may already be covered.
Talk to me
If we use it well, email is a convenient and fast way of communicating in our busy lives. But don’t give up on that quick call or a face-to-face chat, which will often get things sorted faster than a bunch of emails back and forth. It’s how we used to roll, back in the pre-email days…