Saturday, January 30, 2010

Email Etiquette 101

While most of us enjoy receiving emails from friends, we tend to enjoy reading "clean" and properly formatted emails much more than sloppy ones. We prefer receiving well written and properly punctuated emails over those containing poor spelling, bad grammar, and incorrect punctuation. And many among us do not particularly relish the thought of our email addresses being "publicized" to people we do not know when a friend forwards an email to multiple recipients. Here are a few etiquette tips to keep in mind when sending emails:

DON'T automatically assume that all of your friends are eager to be forwarded every single joke, inspirational, or "chain" email you get. Some people don't have the time to read unnecessary emails and will most likely delete them without opening them. Other people don't mind receiving jokes, for example, but don't care for messages with spiritual overtones; still others enjoy receiving religious or inspirational emails but can do without humor or political messages. Many folks chafe at emails that promise money or good luck or the granting of a wish if forwarded to a minimum number of friends and threaten all manner of bad fortune if deleted. And those who don't mind getting jokes may be offended by dirty ones. DO ask before placing anybody on your email forwarding list. In a nutshell - know your audience.

DON'T forward emails containing supposed news items, scams, virus alerts, outrages, or proposed business/product boycotts without first checking their validity. There are hundreds of such emails making their way around the Net, gobbling up bandwidth, clogging up inboxes, and, basically, wasting people's precious time, because many are simply not true. DO check, the urban myth-busting website, before hitting your forward button. Snopes has a search feature that lets you enter a keyword or two and get the skinny on the origins of and facts on these supposed warnings and news reports.

DON'T use the "To" field for multiple recipients. If you are planning to send an email to several people, unless everybody knows each other (and one another's email addresses), a good practice is to "blind copy" everyone. DO make use of the "Bcc" field. You can use your own email address as the main destination, if you wish, or just leave it blank, and enter all of the recipients' email addresses in the "Bcc" field. Each person who receives the email will see only your email address as the sender, and the text "Undisclosed Recipients" as the receiver if you left the "To" field blank. This gets your email to those in your various social circles while preserving everybody's privacy.

DON'T use the "reply all" feature to respond to senders who violate the foregoing. This will only perpetuate the problem. DO reply only to the sender, especially if you are responding with an issue or complaint. It's much nicer that way.

DON'T forward emails without first deleting all extraneous info - prior recipients/comments/threads - from previous forwards. Leaving the email addresses of prior recipients intact violates their privacy; not to mention the fact that it's cumbersome for the new recipients to have to scroll down past previous headers and other text in order to get to the message. DO highlight all text that appears above the message you're forwarding and use your delete button to eliminate it. Or, better still, if the email is text only, highlight and copy the message and paste it into a brand-new email for your peeps. (Unfortunately, highlighting and copying generally doesn't work well for emails containing images. So please take an extra thirty seconds or so and get rid of all the previous headers. Your friends will thank you for it.)

DON'T forward emails containing embedded images without first checking that the images are showing up properly. It's very annoying to receive an email with little red x's appearing where pictures should be. Some email programs suppress embedded graphics or convert them to attachments. Or one or more image files may simply not display once the forward button is clicked on, resulting in placeholders with the little red x's. DO take a moment to make a visual scan of the email, after hitting the forward button but prior to clicking on "send," to ensure that all the images included in the original message are still there, and delete any placeholders or greyed-out areas. If any of the "missing" images contain text or are otherwise significant to the extent that their absence leaves a gap in the message, please refrain from forwarding it.

As with forwards, when sending original emails, DON'T include unnecessary recipients. DO ensure that anyone you plan on sending the email to needs to know, or has an interest in, the topic you're addressing. This goes for replying to original emails, too; exercise discretion when choosing between the "reply" and "reply all" features. (If you want only select recipients to see your reply, you can either add those email addresses manually after hitting your "reply" button, or delete the unneeded emails after selecting "reply all.")

Finally, DON'T TYPE IN ALL CAPS. This is considered shouting. Putting a word or two in all capital letters (as with these do's and don'ts) is fine for emphasis, or to illustrate a point, but, for the majority of the text, DO use upper and lower case properly.

Upcoming blog post: Why relying solely on your spell checker is not a good idea.

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