When I think of the word “etiquette”, an image develops in my mind of someone prim and proper, pinky outstretched, as they quietly sip on their tea. With that in mind, here are some “prim and proper” suggestions I would like to recommend around email etiquette. (Several are from personal experience…hopefully you can learn from my mistakes)
- Address the email last. There have been plenty of times where I have sent an email before it was finished by accidentally clicking the wrong button (I think my tea sipping pinky gets in the way). A good way to avoid that is by not addressing the email until you are done composing it. This may feel counter-intuitive in the beginning; most people think “who do I need to talk to?” and then “what do I need to say?”, but doing the email addresses last helps me with premature sends, as well as oftentimes forcing me to skim over the email one more time before sending it out.
- Walk away when you are up in flames. Frustration is a part of life. If you find yourself frustrated, mad, or generally PO’ed about something, the best bet is to walk away from email for a while. Once you have a cooler head, then compose your thoughts. If needed, write something in a word processing document first, then let it sit on your computer for awhile. If you’re still rip roaring mad, consider whether you should talk to the person directly instead (yes, we can still exercise verbal communication). Don’t send something you will regret later or that will make things worse.
- Use subjects that make sense. The subject line should be like a bumper sticker: here is my main idea in as few words as possible. The person should know what the general idea will be about before opening the message, and the subject should help the recipients search and find the email later. Also, please avoid using ALL CAPS for subjects (or email messages, for that matter)…no one wants to feel like they are being yelled at.
- Know when to Cc: and when to Bcc: The Cc: (carbon copy) and the Bcc: (blind carbon copy) can be powerful tools when used right.
- Cc: - Commonly used when you want to include someone on a message as an “oh, by the way….”. You send emails to people you want answers from, a dialogue with, or action from. You Cc: people that you only want aware of the situation.
- Bcc: - Most people shy away from blind carbon copying people for good reason: it feels like “tattling” or talking behind someone’s back. If you send an email to someone and Bcc: it to someone else, the original recipient will not know the Bcc:’ed person has a copy. There are, however, some instances where using the Bcc: makes sense. For example, if you want to send a message to a group of people but not share their email addresses (maybe they don’t all know one another), that is a good use of Bcc. Another great utilization is to prevent a slew of “reply all” messages to the masses; if you leave the “to” blank, the Cc: blank, and in the Bcc: add individuals or a group, only the original sender will get the reply if someone hits “reply” or “reply all”. That will cut down on unwanted clutter in everyone else’s mailboxes and ensure they still consider you the bee’s knees. If you need help using Bcc:, find a tech to walk you through it.
Hopefully these suggestions assist in your proper use of email and cements your standing as a respectable online communicator. (And with that said, I’m off to view one of the classics…pretty sure there is a Three Stooges rerun on right now. That Shemp is genius!)
For more tech tips from Jeff, check out his YouTube channel.