Current Mood: Very awake for someone who was up at 6 AM on a Saturday.
Current Song: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley.
Lately, I have been dealing with a lot of emails of varying tones and quality – some of which have pretty much made it necessary for me to write this post. Email is the most often used form of communication in our digital world today. We email practically everyone on a regular basis, and for something we do this often, there are rules of engagement. Now there are tons of website and blogs out there that go into the details of email etiquette (roughly about 8 million, according to a Google search I just did). Here are 5 that I think are probably the most important to heed:
1. Watch your tone. Given the complete lack of speech nuances, facial expressions and body language, it is important to watch your tone. Language says a lot about how you are feeling. Now, we all have bad days and can be a bit short on email (guilty as charged). If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or angry, don’t reply to an email that has brought you to that point. You’ll only manage to convey how angry you are. If it’s something worth getting angry about, it’s best to pick up the phone. Saying words like “huh?” can come across as crass and rude. Remember, you only have words to convey a range of different things; use them wisely.
2. DON’T USE CAPITALS IN EMAILS! This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. Unless it’s for exciting news, i.e. OH MY GOD, I WON THE LOTTERY or THAT WAS THE BEST FIRST DATE, EVER! or CAN YOU BELIEVE I’M GOING TO BE ON THE OPRAH SHOW?, that’s fine. You’ll probably get a response in kind. If you want to highlight something, or make a point use, italics, bold, or underline. It’s less akin to yelling at someone in person. If you wouldn’t yell it out in person, don’t yell it out on email.
3. Don’t forget your manners – Say Please and Thank You. We often get to the point of familiarity with people over email, where we start replying in short phrases and leave the greetings and niceties at the door. It’s fine if I’m talking to my best friend or my sister, that I might do this. However, please please don’t forget to say Please and Thank you. We say it all the time in person (right?). Email should be no different. Show your appreciation and be polite. Better yet, drop someone a thank you note when they help you out in a big way. It keeps otherwise impersonal forms of communication warm and humanly.
4. Ask Your Questions at the End. We go through emails everyday at an unprecedented rate. Sometimes it goes from reading right into the bin. Have you got something important to ask? Ask it at the end. If you do, it’s the last thing that will be on my mind when I respond to you. Asking questions at the beginning or the middle of an email will result in people forgetting by the time they get to the end of the message. I’ve found that the most effective thing to do is to ask at the end of the message. You’ll notice that it’s the first thing addressed in your reply.
5. Life is Short. Stop Rambling. I can’t stand it when emails go on forever. If it’s a really compelling story about, say, how you just got back from an amazing spiritual quest at the foot of the Himalayas or a recipe for an amazing chocolate cake to end all of mankind, then please, go right ahead. If you’re “thinking out loud” on email, spare us all, please. As an editor, if I write a long email, I take a few moments to edit through it because I know I’ve probably made it longer than it needs to be. If you want to have a discussion, talk through the logic of a problem, or express something, pick up the phone. Don’t write a long email. I probably won’t read it.
Those are my tips for awesome email etiquette. I’m sure there are tons more out there. Have you got any to share?