28. May 2006, 17:42 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

E-mail is so widespread as to be ubiquitous. It is the single, most used internet application. It helps businesses communicate, keeps families and friends in touch, and provides a reliable means for the transfer of information. When misused, however, it can be a nightmare, for users, administrators and companies (and this isn’t even considering spam). The following are some tips or e-mail “etiquette” to help keep e-mail useful and a big step towards making a safe mode of communication for individuals and companies.

1 - Regard e-mail as you would a postcard.

The contents of e-mail (unless encrypted) are not truely private. They can be examined easily at any point between the sender and the recipient. In a business setting, they can be examined at any time either before or after they are sent. It is therefore wise to refrain from speculation on business ventures, gossip, competitors, supervisors, partners, co-workers, “off-colour” jokes, sarcasm and personal attacks. For similar reasons, keep sensitive personal and business information and intellectual property out of e-mails unless it is encrypted and you have permission to pass it along. A certification process for such communications in a business setting is not untoward.

2 - Let e-mail messages simmer a while.

Save your e-mails as drafts whenever possible and wait for a period of time before you actually send it. Be sure to reread it before doing so. This permits, in many cases, a calmer and more considered approach to the content and tone of your message - especially in the workplace. E-Mail is very straightforward. Like most printed media, it does not particularly convey well tonalities such as frustration and sarcasm. Contents should be clear and concise so that they cannot be misconstrued as a wide spectrum of unintended situations ranging from personal attacks to inappropriate flirtations. (There is actually a company that charges a fee for a delayed e-mail delivery service. My advise is to learn patience and restraint and save your money. It will be more useful in the long term.)

3 - Be aware of the intended and the unintended audience.

If you are sending a mail to a mailing list make sure the content is appropriate for all those on the list. Especially in terms of professional or work related lists, the information contained must be permissible for all to see or it should be sent in a private e-mail. Before sending the message, you should also so ensure that any “auto-complete” functions in your e-mail client didn't inadvertantly add someone to the list of recipient who shouldn't have been there. Also be sure to use the BCC field for lists of multiple recipients to keep e-mail addresses private, and to guard against a deluge of "Reply to All" messages.

An additional effort should be made when going to be unavailable for extended periods is to temporarily suspend reception of mailing lists. Most list software has an option for this without the need to unsubscribe, and the rest of your list fellows will appreiate not having to read many “Out of office” or “On vaction” autoresponders to every list post.

4 - Don't relay in the workplace unless relevant.

Unless a mail you receive in the workplace is relevant to the job and someone else should see it, avoid passing on and forwarding jokes, spam, chain letters, media clips and other such detrius. Make sure you know your firm’s policy on “office spam” before you pass on that you have a bicycle, barbeque or vintage car for sale.

5 - Use plain text.

Text only e-mail is always the preferred mode of communication. If you want to use HTML, do so only when necessary and ensure that a plain text is at the start of youe message.

In the end you have to use some common sense, and if something doesn’t feel right stop before sending any e-mail. In the case of work, be aware of policy regarding e-mail use and if there are any questions of ambiquities ask the appropriate party (usually the CSO or CIO) for clarification.

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Keywords: e-mail,email,etiquette,advice



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