Thursday, March 7, 2013

Business Email Etiquette - Why it Matters

Manners and etiquette are important because they make life easier and more pleasant for everyone. Business email etiquette is no exception.

Let's face it, email has been subject to abuse almost since it first made its appearance. That's partly because it is an immediate medium. Before email, we had to print the message and send it physically to another person, sometimes even going to the post office and buying a stamp in the process. So it cost us time and money.

Because of that, we used to take time to consider the message carefully, write it effectively and send it only to the right people.

Email, on the other hand, needs no stamp, no trip to the post office or even the mail room --- it just needs the touch of a button. That's good, because it allows us to be more efficient and productive. But it has also encouraged us to dash off fast messages without the proper amount of thought, use careless or inappropriate language, and blast them off to everyone we know, whether they care about them or not.

That's not polite. It's poor communication and it's a huge waste of workplace time.

Business email etiquette involves going back to the same three principles I mentioned above, which we used to observe with printed messages. How? Follow these guidelines:

1. Think carefully about the message you are about to send. Who is the person you are writing to and what is the essential information you want to convey? Is the person familiar with your jargon, or do you need to "translate" it into non-technical language?

2. Instead of just writing the words as they pop into your head and then hitting the "send" button without even reading them, take time to plan the message. If you have three related points to make, put them in logical order. Couch the information in complete, grammatically correct sentences. Break the message into short paragraphs, which are easier to read online than huge blocks of text. And use upper and lower case letters just as you would in print.

3. Send the message only to those who should receive it. Even though you have a departmental list, if the message is only for John, don't send it to everyone else on the list. That simply fills everyone's emailbox and wastes their time.

And finally, read the thing before you hit "send" to make sure it says exactly what you intend it to say in an appropriate way.

I don't care how you write email messages to your friends, but if I'm part of your workplace or your business network, I care about your business email etiquette, and you should too.

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