Access Keys:
Skip to content (Access Key - 0)

Email Etiquette

Added by LAURA NICOLE MASSARO KAUFFMAN , last edited by LAURA NICOLE MASSARO KAUFFMAN on Jun 02, 2010 10:03


Email Etiquette, a.k.a. "Email Safety: Avoiding Emotional Injury in the Workplace"

#top

Words Can Hurt: Why Email Is Potentially Hazardous

  • People can't see your face or hear your voice to infer tone.
  • You can't see their reaction to adjust your message to your audience once you begin delivering it.
  • A bad mood is like a self-fulfilling prophecy; sometimes people are just looking for another reason to be upset.

#top

General Email Safety Tips

  • Avoid using email for confidential and/or sensitive information.
  • Use complete sentences and proofread carefully.
  • Be brief.  (No more than 1-3 short paragraphs.)
  • Treat email like any other formal writing:
    • Use a salutation.
    • Use a closing.
    • Use a signature with name, title, and contact information.

#top

Caution: Don't Slip on the Send Button

  • Are you uncertain about whether you have the right recipient(s)?
  • Do you have spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors?
  • Could your tone be misinterpreted?
  • Have you forgotten your attachment or included the wrong attachment?

#top

Top 3 Email Attachment Hazards

  • Attachment was too large to be downloaded.
  • Attachment format was filtered or unreadable by recipients software (ex: ZIP, DOCX, etc.).
  • Attachment was not needed; sender could have sent link or path to shared drive.

#top

Little Courtesies: Protecting Against Common Email Irritants

  • Avoid the use of special formatting, such bold, italics, fonts, colors, images.  (Recipient's browser may not be accepting the HTML code needed to display these things.)
  • Avoid overuse of high priority.
  • Don't use read receipts.
  • In replies, don't include the whole preceding message; just quote the relevant portions.
  • Be considerate about when you CC/BCC up the organizational hierarchy.
  • If you receive mail by mistake, forward it to the correct recipient, CCing sender.
  • It's good practice to get the sender's permission before forwarding a message.

#top

Avoiding Mass Alarm: Routing Your Email to the Correct Recipients

  • When sending to multiple recipients: consider who really needs to be CCed.  Consider mail merge or BCC to avoid mass replies.
  • For group discussions, consider other methods: listservs, globals, discussion forums, blogs, etc.
  • If you receive mail by mistake, forward it to the correct recipient, CCing sender.
  • To avoid lapses in service, consider giving out a list serv or global instead of a personal email.
  • Before replying to a message with several recipients, decide whether it is best to Reply or Reply All.
  • Never assume your email is confidential.  It could be forwarded to or intercepted by anyone.

#top

Fire Safety: How to Avoid Flames in Your Email

  • Don't use all capital letters, a.k.a. FLAMES.  (People will think you are SHOUTING.)
  • Call attention to mistakes indirectly.  (Instead of "You have a typo on your Webpage", ask "Did you mean to use 'its' instead of 'it's' here?")
  • Consider using another mode of communication for criticism, grievances, etc.
  • Use humor judiciously; be wary of irony and sarcasm.  (A misunderstandings is not a laughing matter.)

#top

Putting Out Fires: How to Respond to An Angry Email

  • Assume the best intentions on the part of the sender.
  • Don't respond immediately; cool down first.
  • Admit to mistakes; look into what you don't know instead of making guesses.
  • Place your response in drafts folder.
  • Seek advice from colleagues.
  • Review your response for tone, accuracy, etc.
  • Consider using draft as notes for a meeting or phone call instead.

#top