Email Etiquette - When Hitting Send Can Send You Up a Creek

Email has been a godsend for increasing the efficiency of communication.  But with great power comes great responsibility, so it’s vitally important that the rules and etiquette of sending email are heeded, or the results can be disastrous. The office may be a place for email, but you have to be careful of what kind of emails you send.  Keeping the following tips in mind can help keep your emails from causing harm

By Jennifer Jordan

Since the conception of email, the way we communicate has drastically changed.  In short, we email people more than we speak to them. We email our family members, our employers, our employees and we email our friends. We email so many people so often that sometimes we forget the proper etiquette that must be heeded.

This is no truer than in business:   the office may be a place for email, but you have to be careful of what kind of emails you send. Sending the wrong kind or ones that convey the wrong message can quickly send you up a creek, without a paycheck.

Keeping the following tips in mind, however, can help keep you, and your emails, from causing harm:

Lay off the Sarcasm

To some people sarcasm is offensive, to others it's a lost art. Whether or not you believe in the goodness of sarcasm, email is really no place for it. Sarcasm relies on nonverbal communication - such as tone of voice or facial expression - a nonverbal communication that can't be expressed over the world wide web.

You may send an email that is meant to lighten the mood or convey a little laughter, but it might not come across as funny; it might just come across as insulting. For this reason, keep your emails free of jokes and save the sarcasm for face to face encounters.

Be Brief but Not too Brief

Brevity is often a good thing to employ. People are busy and nothing makes a busy person angrier than having to read an email that is seemingly delivered in volumes. Too much brevity in an email, however, can be misunderstood. Replying to an email with the words "Fine" or "Yes" may, on your end, seem plain and to the point, but to the recipient, your briefness may be misconstrued as curtness. You can be brief, but be brief in one or two sentences, instead of one or two syllables.

Unlock the Caps

It may seem like a time saver: writing with the Caps Lock key enabled. This way, you don't have to hit that pesky shift key every time you start a sentence. But, unfortunately, words in all caps are - in the world of email - considered "fighting words." Yelling, conveying frustration, and telling someone off via email is usually done in all caps. Thus, reserve Caps Lock for when you are yelling and, the rest of the time, stick to lowercase.

Reply to the Right Person

Most of us have been in this situation: our boss sends out an email to a group of us demonstrating his incompetence. Instead of just ignoring it, we figure we will comment to the other recipients about it. In a hurry - undoubtedly excited by how funny our comment will be - we forget to delete our boss's name from the address list. Only after he calls us into our office do we realise our mistake. Turns out, he doesn't think we are funny. The lesson to be learned is simple: only hit send once you've double checked your list of recipients.

Email is an important tool. However, certain etiquette must be followed, particularly in a business setting. Not following this can leave you in some real trouble, and longing for the days before technology took over.

Jennifer Jordan is an editor and staff writer for [] An English major and professional writer, she spends her days correcting grammar and wondering why she's unpopular.

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