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Email Netiquette, Part 3

It doesn't matter whether you're just getting started with email or you've been communicating online for years; for most of us, email has become a way of life. For that reason alone, it's important to keep your email skills and practices current. Picking up where we left off in Part 2, we'll continue with Part 3 of "Everything You Need to Know about Using Email: The New Netiquette."

21. Do not type in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. This is an oldie-but-goodie email rule that has withstood the test of time. Typing in all caps is considered shouting and should be avoided. It’s fine to occasionally include a word in all caps for emphasis, like shouting “CONGRATULATIONS” to somebody, but use it sparingly. It’s also more difficult to read a message written in capital letters than it is reading a message typed in upper and lower case. Perhaps most significantly, typing in all caps places the recipient on notice that you’re an email novice, something you might want to avoid, particularly in a business or professional environment.

22. Invoke the 12-hour, cool-down rule. Never send an email written in anger. If you’re upset, go ahead and write your email, pound the keyboard, stomp your feet -- vent your spleen to your heart’s content, but do not send it. After you’ve spewed your digital venom, save the email and review it a minimum of 12 hours later. Chances are you’ll be very glad you didn’t send it in the heat of the moment -- a phenomenon called “dodging a digital bullet.”

23. Insert the recipient’s address last. Emails sent accidentally or prematurely can destroy business and personal relationships. Remove the email address from a reply or don’t address an email you’re composing – particularly one written while angry – until you’re ready to send it. There is no more helpless, sinking feeling than accidentally clicking the Send button when you intend to hit the Close or Save button. Don’t take any chances. The relationship you save may be your own.

24. Do not attempt to retrieve a message. If you make a mistake, don’t ask recipients to send back your email. Chances are that your message has already been read, anyway. Instead, send another email advising recipients that you made a mistake and provide the correct or updated information. It’s a much less intrusive approach and your honesty will be appreciated.

25. Do not overuse the “Reply to All” option. Just because a sender may have copied a number of people on an email to you doesn’t mean you need to reply to everybody. Use discretion. Ask yourself if there is truly any benefit to be derived by multiple recipients receiving your response. If not, click Reply instead of Reply to All and respond to the sender only.

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26. Use the Bcc field. When sending an email to multiple recipients, place email addresses in the Bcc (Blind Carbon or Blind Cyber Copy) to hide them, unless you specifically want each recipient to know who else received the email. It is an electronic faux pax to publish all recipient email addresses, making them available to all other recipients, nor is it fair to the individuals on your list who did not give you permission to share their email address with others.

27. Limit the use of online abbreviations and emoticons. Humor, irony, sarcasm, etc. are easy to miss when contained in an email message. Sometimes it helps to add an emoticon or “smiley face” to let the reader know you’re just kidding. Example: “Ask Mr. Modem! He knows everything!” J It’s fine to use an occasional L8R or TTFN, but don’t overdue it. A good rule of thumb is: “When in doubt, don’t.”

28. Kutesy isn’t always kewl. It’s fine to include “fun” phrases and goofy SpElLiNGs on occasion, but it gets old in a big hurry. No matter how clever you think something is, it’s probably not new and chances are your intended recipient has seen it before. And enough with the “Windoze” already. I’m beggin’ you.

29. Don’t overuse punctuation!!!!! Need I say more?

30. Tidy up before forwarding. Take the time to clean up your email by cutting and pasting forwarded emails and/or attachments into a new email. If your email program permits editing of received messages, delete extraneous material such lists of email recipients or clean up any formatting issues such as >>>>> forwarding marks. Web sites such as Mr. Ed’s Email Stripper can help.

Many more email Netiquette tips await just a mouse-click away in Part 4 of this series. For weekly Internet, email and fundamental computer tips, subscribe today to Mr. Modem’s weekly newsletter today!

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