Internet etiquette improves the legibility of your correspondence, increases your efficiency and protects your company from liability…
Many of us start our business day by turning on our computer and retrieving our email. Most of what flows into our In-boxes is a combination of spam, unsolicited promotional offers, friends who are checking-in, and business-related correspondence.
The challenge is to delete the unwanted garbage, determine which emails are important and respond to them in priority order.
Since most of us receive an abundance of email, it’s important to respect the time of others and develop email correspondence that is more likely to be read, than deleted.
If your company’s employees are able to deal professionally with email, they can assist in the important task of maintaining a competitive edge.
Moreover by educating employees as to what can and cannot be said in an email, protects your company from awkward liability issues.
Here are a few tips that may assist you to better manage what you receive and send to others, using “netiquette” - the etiquette of cyberspace.
Use professional language – do not use terms that might be interpreted as being biased, libelous, offensive, defamatory, or profanity.
Be personal and use names whenever possible. Do not send out generic emails, or send copies to everyone and expect them to respond. The cc: field can be confusing since the recipients might not know who is supposed to act on the message.
Use templates or drafts to respond to frequently asked questions (i.e. directions to your office, customer inquiries, etc.). If emails require a lengthy personal response, acknowledge receipt of the correspondence and explain when you will have the opportunity to provide the detailed response.
Use an auto responder for occasions when you are out of the office, or if the email address receives applications or resumes.
Don’t send a message in all CAPS. Capitalized messages are equivalent to shouting. Use normal capitalization and separate your paragraphs with a space.
Remember that your typed words don’t convey emotion or the tone of your voice – so in moderation, use punctuation, colors, italics, or bold letters, to express surprise, a question, humor or emphasis. Be careful when writing satire or using sarcasm. Ensure that the color of your text is easy to read against the background.
Use proper grammar and spelling and avoid abbreviations. Your email is a reflection of who you are – using spell check is easy and prevents you from appearing illiterate.
Protect yourself & your friends’ email addresses. If you are emailing multiple individuals, put only “your” name in the TO field and then put the email addresses of those to whom you are sending the correspondence in the 'BCC' slot.
Pay attention to the content of your writing. Keep your emails concise and logical. Make sure your email has a purpose and answers all the questions your readers may have by communicating the 5 “w’s” and “h” (who, what, when, where, why and how).
Compose your email so that your recipients don’t have to send several emails back and forth to determine what you want. Get to the point - clearly state the objective of the email and what you expect from the recipients. If you are soliciting their input, define the specifics of the information you are seeking and the deadline by which you must receive it.
If you are answering someone’s questions, respond to all of the questions quickly and thoroughly, or explain why you don’t have the answers.
Remember that someone else may read your email – so do not discuss confidential information, and ensure that what you have written will not offend someone else if they receive a copy of your correspondence.
When responding to someone’s email, include enough of their message so they know what you are referencing. Maintain their communication verbatim if you think that the information will be needed for future reference, i.e. deadlines, appointments, specifications for an advertisement, etc.
If you have several points to make, use bullets, numbers, or letters to separate them. This makes each item easy to identify.
Remember that many recipients have email programs that wrap text, so keep sentences and paragraphs short.
Not everyone has a high-speed Internet connection, so refrain from sending large attachments, such as Adobe PDF’s, graphics that aren’t zipped, or video clips that take a long time to load.
Email individuals appropriately. Don’t use company time to write personal emails, send jokes, or forward chain letters.
Don’t use your business email address for personal correspondence such as shopping orders, vacation resort information, religious messages, etc.
Have a good virus scanner and ensure that it is updated so as to prevent opening or sending viruses. Determine if the company has an email policy that requires employees to add a disclaimer at the bottom of every external mail, saying that the recipient must check each email for viruses and that your company cannot be held liable for any transmitted viruses.
Only use the “high priority” flag when it is an absolute priority and do not overuse the “Reply to All” button.
Be aware that when you send an email in rich text or HTML format, the reader might only be able to receive plain text emails. If this is the case, your message may not be legible to the recipient.
Do not copy a message or attachment belonging to another user without permission of the originator. If you do not ask permission first, you might be infringing on copyright laws.
Use the email signature tool that automatically provides your full name, title, company name, phone number, fax, and email address at the bottom of your correspondence.
Use the “shift/delete button” to eliminate spam, or use email software to automatically move spam to a designated folder. You can always review it quickly before deleting its contents, to ensure that wanted messages didn’t get routed there by mistake.
If you are a manager or above, check with the Legal Department to determine if the company has an email policy that includes the do's and don'ts concerning the use of the company's email system. If so, distribute it to all of your employees. Ensure that they are trained and understand the importance of email etiquette and monitor that the company policy is being followed.