Saturday, September 12, 2015

Email Etiquette: Things We All Should Know by Now

Email was invented in the 1970s and ubiquitous by the 1990s. Yet it seems that people still have trouble using it appropriately for professional communications.A few weeks ago, I experienced five breeches of email etiquette within two weeks:
  1. someone refuses to answer my emails after a few weeks (no vacation response either)
  2. someone replied to an email I sent to my supervisor and not me (nor did they cc me)
  3. someone replied to all regarding a matter that only involved two people (causing unnecessary worry and chaos for the others recipients)
  4. someone send me a snarky email chastising me for not doing something that I had already emailed them about to indicate I had completed (prompting the "sorry I missed that one" response)
  5.  someone c.c. me on an email without explaining why (so I was left to unravel the mystery)
I've committed some email violations before in my day. But in these cases all these emails I wrote were definitively relevant to the person's job duties and were polite and brief.

I actually thought that after many years of email usage people would be committing  email crimes with much less frequency. But email crimes continue to happen far too often.

And, I'm guilty too. The worst email crime I did recently was not checking spell check closely enough and it changed a person (thankfully one with a sense of humour) name to urine.

So since there are still evidently so many criminals here is

Email Law for All Lands

1) Reply to all emails that indicate a reply is needed
With the exception of emails from crazy people, there is no one too great that they can't type even a few words of a reply. I've emailed CEOs, deans, and government officials and received replies - so I refuse to believe that those managing the middle and such are more busy than them.  If you are too busy to reply to your emails then you need to delegate or reassign your responsibilities.

Note some slack can be given to really big, big shots. By this I mean at the level of heads of state and Hollywood superstars. But the same excuse is not acceptable for entry level administrators

2) Read up before sending out
It's easy to quickly send an email to follow up on a topic - but don't channel your responsibilities to someone else by not knowing the current status of an issue.  Before sending an email, it only takes a few moments to check your prior emails on a topic and familiarize yourself with the status of items before sending an email exposing your ignorance.

3) Watch your tone and take sensitive stuff offline
Email is a lean medium unlike talking in person, so tone or humour can be easily mistaken. Better to compose emails with a neutral tone unless one has an established relationship with a person.

4) Be careful of "reply all", CC, and even more careful of BCC 
It's really easy to add that extra person, or two, or three, or ten - but don't! Everyone experiences email overload nowadays so don't compound the problem. Also, never send an email to someone if they don't be to know why they are receiving it.  BCC has the same problem, but is even worse as now you've done something secret and sneaky,

Finally, if you are adding someone to an ongoing email thread state this to the email group. Explain to the group and individual why they are being included.

5)  Check before you send
Taking at least a few quick moments to reread your email before sending it out can help you avoid the above problems and more.  It's a great idea to have spell check set to automatically check emails before sending them, but spell check is not always your friend as my email to "Urine" proved.

There are more email crimes than I have listed here, so feel free to add to the list.

No comments: