Say What: Netiquette

Email is ubiquitous in business, but many people still struggle with writing the electronic notes effectively. Surprising really when you look back and realise that many of use have been emailing for over 10 years already, and that some companies and people still haven't gotten emailing 'right'. Netiquette is the art of emailing (and doing other stuff on the internet).

Without proper netiquette, emailing can be a massive waste of time. A recent study from Information Mapping found that 34 percent of respondents wasted between 30 and 60 minutes a day reading and trying to understand poorly written email messages. This doesn't take into account the risk of staff, managers or your clients misinterpreting you - 50 percent of the time people interpret tone in an email incorrectly, even though they think they get it right 90 percent of the time.

As no 'official' rules govern email, a number of 'netiquette' standards have evolved in the last ten or so years. Properly written emails save time and more. Proper language conveys a professional image, while adhering to netiquette principles is a form of protection from liability.

So here are some netiquette guidelines to follow:

  • Subject Line: This is the window into your email, so make it relevant. Try to think of something that is meaningful to the recipient as well as yourself. In long discussions, take the time to change the subject from time to time to reflect what you're really talking about.
  • Personalise: Email should be personally addressed and include customised content.
  • Keep it Concise: The ideal length of an email is five sentences. If it's a simple request keep it to a sentence or two. If you want a quick response then don't ask too many questions. Be concise but don't assume that the recipient knows all the background.
  • Answer all Questions: Customers will be impressed by an efficient and accurate response. Besides, if you don't answer all questions then you're likely to receive another email with the unanswered questions from the original email.
  • Limit Recipients: The more people you send an email to, the less likely any one person will respond. If you're going to send an email to a large group of people use BCC (blind carbon copy) as it doesn't reveal everyone's email address and ups the chances of you getting personal responses. In the days of email viruses, it also keeps your recipients safe.
  • Don't write in CAPS: Caps are the email version of yelling. Writing in caps is annoying and may trigger an unwanted response. If you use caps in the subject line, your email is sure to get caught in spam filters. Don't write all in lower case either.
  • Be Careful: Assume your email will be immediately forwarded to a bunch of people who you probably don't want to see it. Never say anything that would offend your coworkers and remember if it's a sensitive issue then speak in person or over the phone. If you don't want your email to be displayed then don't send it. For a demonstration of what can go wrong, check out this story.

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