Subject: Your professionalism shows in e-mail
has no verbal clues or nuances
has no body language
can be easily misconstrued
often is conceived in haste and too casually for the workplace
can be combative, complex, emotional or ambiguous
can be hazardous to relationships and careers
The human touch is often missing
There’s no immediate give and take of conversation. E-mail can facilitate incivility. Curt e-mails are interpreted as ‘snippy’. If someone takes offense at your e-mail, don’t blame the recipient for misinterpretation. Apologize and learn. Work to improve your e-mails or use the phone or talk in person.
When to use and when not to use e-mail
Do--E-mail works best for short, straightforward information or requests.
Don’t—Ask questions for which you have the answers if you’d just look.
Do—Think about what else you need to request or write in this e-mail to communicate clearly.
Don’t--Gonthier in ‘Rude Awakenings’ says
“Problem: e-mailing trivial information or brief messages to someone whose office is close by.
Solution: Face-to-face communication is still the best way to solve a problem, create camaraderie and spread goodwill. “Hiding behind e-mail is antisocial!””
The parts of a civil e-mail message
Subject lines are very important. Give the recipient an idea of the content.
Gonthier says e-mail salutations are important for civility. Rather than launching into the message, begin with ‘Greetings Leo’ or ‘Dear Jill’. I think it’s quite nice to receive e-mails that have a salutation… a touch of class. It adds some warmth to a very one-dimensional method of communication.
Your e-mail signature should be no more than six lines. It should contain your name, title and organization, street address, e-mail address and telephone. Your organization Web site is a nice addition. Quotes or sayings are not appropriate on workplace signatures.
Sloppy communication skills are correlated with sloppy and disjointed thinking
Answer the questions you’ve been asked.
If you need time to respond, have the courtesy to let the person know.
Flaming is venting emotions online. I think most everyone understands that typing in all capital letters is the equivalent of shouting and obviously, not a civil thing to do….not to mention what readership surveys tell us: all caps are hard to read.
Humor, irony and sarcasm are difficult to express.
Shorthand acronyms are not appropriate. (LOL for laughing out loud, etc.) All lower case letters are not acceptable either.
When you send to a group of people asking for information or wanting action, many assume someone else will reply. And when you are the one who does reply, copy the group so everyone knows the e-mail has been answered.
Don’t be too quick
Don’t send e-mails that go on…and on; people won’t read them. Edit your e-mails. Get to the point of the message. Focus on one point at a time and if you have too many points, try several e-mails or use the telephone. The time spent clarifying and editing will save you time later explaining what you meant.
Read over every e-mail before you hit ‘send’. Run spell-check. It doesn’t matter if the message goes to a coworker you’ve known for years or your new supervisor. It’s a reflection of you. And know, there will be times that something as simple as ‘it’ will be sent as ‘is’.
If in doubt, particularly when you’re upset…when you receive the e-mail that just sets you off... type a response and put it in your draft folder. Think about it. Often you’ll decide to trash it. Sometimes just the act of typing it provides some relief. Often it’s better to pick up the telephone or if possible, go talk to the person. Work to resolve the conflict so you can move on.
We all should be aware that any e-mail message can be sent to people we never anticipated would see the message. If information is sensitive or confidential or heated, don’t use e-mail.
One of the best e-mails I’ve ever written was six sentences. I got immediate action. I edited it off and on for several hours to get those sentences to the powerhouse stage. I suspect the people who received it thought I typed it in a matter of minutes.
Published this month
Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe
I have a copy ordered. Amazon.com has editorial reviews (click through to ‘more reviews’) and then below the details on the authors, read the excerpt from the introduction to the book. Entertaining and enlightening. I imagine it will give me fodder for more posts on using e-mail.
“The two words ‘information' and ‘communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
--Sydney Harris, American journalist and author (1917-1986)