For many of us, e-mail is the primary method of communication, so we need to observe some etiquette and self-discipline. With the speed of business and life, we are defaulting to e-mail to solve conflicts and challenges that should be resolved through spoken communication. I’ve messed up by e-mail too many times so I've come up with some protocol that might save you some pain.
Here are some ideas to consider regarding e-mail etiquette. If more people and companies adopt guidelines to control e-mail, it might reduce the stress and anxiety excessive e-mail can create.
1. Don’t complain about getting a lot of e-mail. We all do. Sharing an inflated number of how many you get doesn’t make us sympathize with you.
2. Don’t mark an e-mail as "urgent" if it isn’t urgent. Remember that lack of preparedness on your part doesn’t constitute urgency on mine.
3. Don’t send unnecessary e-mails.
4. Don’t CC people unnecessarily. Ask yourself whether everyone needs to be included. Most of the time, the answer is no. The hope is that others will reciprocate and leave you off of irrelevant messages.
5. Don’t hit Reply All for birthday wishes, welcomes and congratulations to one person in particular.
6. Don’t use all caps unless YOU ARE YELLING! For emphasis, try italics.
7. Don’t forget to use spell check. Even though e-mail is casual, keep them professional, even to friends.
8. Don’t ever criticize, condemn or complain over e-mail. It is too easy to be misinterpreted. Communicating an appropriate tone and emotion through e-mail is almost impossible.
9. Don’t use a bunch of emoticons or too much e-mail slang. I know you’re a QT but w/o clear direction, I’m not able OTOMH to be sure what this :-/ means.
10. Don’t use funky formats and backgrounds for your e-mail. Not all e-mail systems are compatible, and that pretty flower template may look jumbled in someone else’s inbox.
11. Don’t use a long e-mail signature. When your signature is four times the length of your e-mail, it's out of proportion.
12. Don’t use the BCC often, if ever. If someone needs to be hidden from the e-mail conversation, you are likely gossiping behind someone's back. It’s a strong indicator that a spoken conversation is in order.
13. Don’t send an emotional e-mail without letting it sit for 24 hours. Better yet, don’t send it at all. If it’s emotional, you need to have a one-on-one conversation.
14. Don’t add people to your distribution e-zine lists without permission. Just because I gave you my card doesn’t mean I care to read your random thoughts every month (or your friend's).
15. Don’t assume every e-mail you send is important and that you’ll get an immediate response. The importance and urgency of your message is determined by the other e-mails in your recipient’s inbox.
16. Don’t write an e-mail longer than what people can read in the preview pane.
17. Don’t send giant attachments. Anything over 1 to 2MB will likely slow down the recipient's computer and create frustration.
18. Don’t forward inappropriate messages to work e-mail addresses. If I want to see the “People of Wal-Mart,” I know where to find them.
19. Don’t use e-mail as a group-brainstorming tool. Many people write “Thoughts?” or “What do you think?” Don’t ask for opinions through e-mails. Instead, use e-mail for scheduling or adding an agenda item to a list and get opinions in a meeting, in person or on a phone call.
20. Don’t have your “out of office” responder on every day of the year just to tell people how busy you are. Although it might seem like a good way of increasing communication with others, automation is always impersonal. Most people would prefer a delayed response than an automated one.
If we can agree on some protocol, maybe we can get some of this e-mail madness under control. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even get our nights and weekends back.
If you have a comment leave it here but whatever you do, please don’t e-mail me. JK LOL!
Photo credit: Thinkstock