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Email Etiquette

Imagine how much more enjoyable reading our email would be, and how much less time we would waste, if everyone with whom we wish to communicate would practice proper email etiquette. Since training in proper email usage in not a prerequisite to getting an email account, many otherwise polite people don’t know the proper email etiquette to help them be considerate and respectful of other people’s time dealing with email. Here are a few basics.

SUBJECT. Every email message needs a descriptive one, so the recipient knows what you are writing about. If your name is Joe Schmoe, “From Joe Schmoe,” is not a useful subject. Email programs already tell us who the message is from. A proper subject makes it much easier for the recipient to find and followup with your message in the future.

TO, CC, BCC. As a general rule, when you send email to more than a few people, the recipients should be blind copied, to protect their privacy, keep their email addresses from being collected by viruses on other recipients’ computers, and to keep from cluttering the message. Nobody wants to have to look at a page of email addresses on top of a two sentence message! Many years ago, I maintained a distribution list of about seventy five people to whom I regularly sent important announcements. When somebody sent a completely off-topic reply to all, I learned to use BCC and never looked back. An exception to this rule is when your email is part of a discussion, and you want people to reply to all.

REPLY, REPLY to ALL. Before replying to all, consider whether or not others on the list need or want to see your response. If they do, go for it, but otherwise. . . Whatever you do, refrain from sending an off-topic response. Doing so is the email equivalent of belching at the opera. If you need to write on another topic, please create a new email message with a topic-appropriate subject.

FORWARD. We all get email forwarded to us, usually rumors and heart-wrenching stories about Johnnie the orphan. They usually start out, “This is a true story. I verified it on Snopes,” and end up with, “Forward this to everyone you know.” Delete it. These are very rarely true. Microsoft did not just email your friend about the worst virus outbreak ever; nor did the FBI email your friend’s coworker about six Middle Eastern men apprehended with photographs and descriptions of a nuclear power plant. If you are curious, Google it, but don’t forward the message. When you encounter something that would interest a friend or client — hopefully, nothing that’s mentioned above — clean out all the extraneous email addresses and comments make by others, and just send the actual content. Please do not make your recipient open several layers of nested attachments to get to the content.

CLEAN UP. Always consider what is necessary for recipients to see when you reply. It is not necessary to quote a two-page message and another page of email address when your response is, “I can make it to dinner Friday night.” In many cases, you can go into the body of the email message and hit Ctrl-A, to highlight the entire text, then hit Delete to delete it, before typing your message. In other instances, it’s appropriate to snip out extraneous text. Use your judgment regarding what’s appropriate.

RECYCLING. Sometimes it’s necessary to recycle an old email message, especially if you do not have a distribution list for your intended recipients. Make sure to change the subject line to one appropriate for this email message, and delete the entire original message before typing a new one.

cAPS lOCK. Make sure that it’s off, because when you type in all caps, it looks like you are SHOUTING!

DON’T BE the ONE to send out email like the following. Have mercy on the poor schmuck who needs to print out your address and six pages of extraneous junk comes out of his printer!

Six pages of junk for a few sentences of actual message.
Actual message is in red.

Posted in Technology.

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7 Responses

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  1. Ted Gold berg says

    Was a good talk, did learn something although I didn’t understand everything .


    • Craig Herberg says

      Thanks Ted. What should I clarify? If you didn’t understand, there are probably many others who didn’t, as well. Thanks.

      • Connie says

        Finally! This is just what I was lokinog for.

  2. Bob Mack says

    Great advice to all who [ab]use email.

  3. Gatsy says

    If you’re raeidng this, you’re all set, pardner!

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