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Email Etiquette

There are several articles online about email etiquette these days, so I can keep this brief, like a good email. Email has been around for years and most of us use it daily. I actually find it to be one of my preferred means of communication, especially because I hardly have time for phone calls. Email also serves as a good written record of conversations to jog my memory, when needed. It is also useful for including large documents and copying in others, if necessary. Whether we use email for personal, work or business purposes, here are a few considerations to help us make the most of it.

Timing: One of the good things about email is that it does not require as urgent a response as phone calls or text messages. Even when we get push mail direct to our mobile phones, we can still take some time to think or check things before responding, but it is important to ensure that you have a reliable way of making sure you still respond in a timely manner. Missing important emails and replying weeks later never looks good. We can help manage people’s expectations by using automation, such as ‘out of office’ replies and email signatures to inform contacts of our availability. People can send emails at all hours of the day for various reasons, such as differences in time zone or working pattern; and most people do not get offended by receiving an email at midnight, but it then becomes their choice whether to respond at that time or later, since there is no expectation for an immediate response to email. As we all make mistakes and technology sometimes fails, it is best to give the benefit of doubt and be polite if you have to write again to a non-responder.

Content: Most emails will start with a greeting, which depends on the relationship between sender and recipient. It is important to ensure that the greeting is not off-putting with things like wrong titles or name spellings. Unlike texting, even when sent via smartphones, it is important to use correct spellings and sign off emails appropriately with your name (and further contact details). People are more likely to respond favourably when they feel respected and valued. Text abbreviations in an email do not look good on a computer screen, and you never know how far your email will go. Most smartphones and email providers allow you to save a signature, so you do not have to remember to write your details every time. In terms of the body of your email, remember that there is a time and a place for everything. Emails are not always secure/private. If you are feeling very familiar with someone, it is probably best to send jokes and kisses via text or other apps!

Blunders: Other things to avoid when using email include the excessive use of capital letters or exclamation marks. These can sometimes be interpreted as rude. I think you need to be twice as polite in written communication, because the reader does not see your facial expressions. Unless of course, you really want to let them know that you are angry or dissatisfied! Another mistake we often make is to send emails with a mismatching subject. It only takes a minute to edit the subject line, even when replying. This will make it easier for the recipient to decide when to read/reply your email, and makes it easier to search for it more easily in future. We need to also respect people’s wishes for the level of email contact they desire. Even though it takes seconds to delete unwanted emails, people can find them very irritating, especially when they are busy. Some people have settings that let them receive only emails from saved contacts in their inbox. An initial phone call is sometimes required, to start a relationship, before email can be used effectively. Finally, don’t become a slave to technology. Your emails will still be there when you come back - don’t spend your life in front of screens, while missing out on opportunities for useful face-to-face conversations around you everyday.

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