What business can survive without email?
None that I can think of. Are you sure you know how to use email to your best advantage? I’m not talking about email marketing campaigns. I’m just talking simple correspondence.
The proper use of email is an important aspect of “Netiquette.” As this term implies, the online experience is a culture unto itself and even here in cyberspace certain behaviors are expected when you use email. If you use email for your business or even if you don’t, consider what a recipient’s reasonable expectations might be when sending a message to their inbox.
The following is not intended to be a exhaustive list of netiquette rules but a few of my favorite peeves regarding the shortcomings I’ve discovered in my inbox over the many years.
Make sure when others get an email from you that they can see its from you by properly setting up your email account to reflect your first and last name. It isn’t fair to expect your recipients to open emails from a stranger. Yes, really.
Where can you find this to fix it? You will probably find this feature the control panel where you would specify your POP or IMAP and SMTP settings. Look for it please and add your real name.
Your identity: Part deux
Another aspect of identity is the information that is displayed at the bottom of your email. There is a setting in most email clients that allows you to customize what is automatically included at the bottom of your emails. We call that a “Signature.” Make sure your email signature includes your name, title (when appropriate), phone number and web address. Include any other contact information you’d like. Just make sure that your recipients don’t have to look up your phone number in order to reach you that is—unless you don’t want them to call you. In any event, make it easy for them to contact you.
If you use a web mail service like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, Google Apps or AOL, etc. try using WiseStamp. This is a free mashup that provides you with the ability to add really cool email signatures to your email. It also affords you the ability to include graphics into your email without attaching them to your email. Not everyone likes to open an email with an attachment unless they requested an attachment to be sent to them. I use WiseStamp.
Always include meaningful subject lines
This one is definitely for business. Make sure that your email subject line is pertinent to the topic in the email. Sometimes a lot of replies fly back and forth and the topic changes, change the subject line. If you keep client emails for record keeping purposes it will save you time later if you need to go back and search for that correspondence.
In general, just don’t do it. In specific, if you must—use it sparingly and only for emphasis. There are many reasons to not use it.
- Any typographer will tell you whole paragraphs in all caps are difficult to read.
- In the online world, all caps is considered shouting at the reader.
- Using all caps gives perception is that the author is lazy.
Just say no.
Always use Bcc when emailing to multiple recipients
This one is my biggest gripe and has almost ended friendships. Privacy is the first priority on the ‘interwebs.’ Sending an email to a group of recipients without using Bcc, makes public their email address to countless strangers. This robs your recipient of the ability to control their privacy and can undermine their trust in you. There is no way to un-ring that bell or know how far their address will circulate throughout the Internet once this happens. This practice can expose them, at the very least to spam and viruses. It is considered the equivalent of writing their name and phone number on a public restroom wall. Bcc stands for ”Blind carbon copy.” If you don’t know what that means Google it. If you don’t know how to use Bcc in your email client you can Google that too.
If you are ever tempted to send an email to a group of friends and you don’t know how to use BCC and I am on that list— PLEASE remove me from the message. I don’t need to get that email. I don’t care what it is.
Forwarding email jokes, petitions and warnings
- Don’t forward a joke unless it makes you laugh out loud so hard it wakes up your dog or cat in the process. (My rule).
- If you get an online petition, NEVER forward it to anyone. Email petitions are pranks cooked up by drunken college students being played upon a trusting, albeit, gullible public. If you doubt me, bookmark an internet hoax site and look up the email topic in the search engine before you give in to temptation. Here are three respected sources where you can do a quick search to verify: Snopes, Truth or Fiction and Hoaxbusters.
- If you get an email you simply must share with someone else, please remove the name and email address of the person who sent it to you first. I’m sure the person who sent it to you has NO idea how to use Bcc. But you do now, right?
In the old days we called them, “chain letters.” Mom taught me never to burden others with this kind of correspondence to anyone but because email is essentially free these days people think nothing of perpetuating these junk letters. Just say no.
The bottom line
Always follow the tried and true Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
- Use a spelling checker.
- Make sure people can see your emails to them are from YOU. They will be happy to open them.
- Proofread your emails to make sure your communication is clear. Remember that it is nearly impossible to communicate intonation in an email. So make sure your recipient doesn’t get the wrong impression.
- When sending a reply, don’t quote the entire email. Just the part to which you are responding. Delete the rest. This makes for simpler communications and will be appreciated by your recipients.
- If you receive an email that is upsetting or perhaps insulting. Feel free to write a reply BUT save it to your Drafts folder and wait 24 hours before you send it back to them. You will be glad you did.
- BCC to groups unless all recipients need to see who also gets your message.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you do, I encourage you to help make the web a safe and pleasant place to work and play by putting them into practice.