E-mail Etiquette

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E-mail Etiquette

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To start with, this document is intended to offer the guidance to the user on the official e-mails. Personal mails vary from person to person, so it is better to leave them personally to the reader. In our office culture vocal communication is an important part. It is easy for us to convey any message to other person who is in front of us or on the other end of a telephone.

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  1. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 1 of 22 E-mail Etiquette January 14, 2007 Proprietary and confidential Prepared By Anupam Dutta Confidential 3/26/2009
  2. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 2 of 22 Version Author Creation date 1.0 Anupam (anupam.dutta@indiatimes.com) 14 October 2005 E­mail Etiquette To start with, this document is intended to offer the guidance to the user on the official e-mails. Personal mails vary from person to person, so it is better to leave them personally to the reader. In our office culture vocal communication is an important part. It is easy for us to convey any message to other person who is in front of us or on the other end of a telephone. But problem arises when your message is delivered and read when you are not there to interpret. There comes the necessity of proper written communication. It includes mainly two things 1) express the “thinking” in the “writing” 2) abide by the rules and guidelines of writing an official letter. Missing the first point will make your letter purposeless, aimless and by missing of the later one, you may land up with any kind of legal risks. So it is necessary for you to acquaint the guidelines for the written communication. Written communication may be letter, fax, telegram etc. But after the invention of the E-mail and with the explosion in use of the Internet and personal computers, the E-mail is the one which has become the most important mean of written communication. It is not just a quick, easy and relatively cheap way to keep in touch with others, it has also become an essential tool in business, a fundamental part of the way in which we work. • Why Needed? E-mail use has become one of the highest-risk activities facing businesses today. E-mail misuse can lead to loss or theft of intellectual property, confidential information, and claims for harassment, loss of data or trade secrets, lost Confidential 3/26/2009
  3. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 3 of 22 productivity through inappropriate use. E-mail encompasses a potential cocktail of calamity for businesses: from privacy issues, to harassment issues, to online libel, theft of confidential information and productivity-loss. Over three­quarters of all employers report employee abuse of e­mail and / or the  Internet. Practicing “Safe E-mail” is as important for organizations today as any other risk management issue they face. Legal RISKS E-mail is a business communication tool and users are obliged to use this tool in a responsible, effective and lawful manner. Although by its nature e-mail seems to be less formal than other written communication, the same laws apply. Therefore, it is important that users are aware of the legal risks of e-mail: If you send e-mails with any libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks, you and [Company] can be held liable. If you forward e-mails with any libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks, you and [Company] can be held liable. If you unlawfully forward confidential information, you and [Company] can be held liable. If you unlawfully forward or copy messages without permission, you and [Company] can be held liable for copyright infringement. If you send an attachment that contains a virus, you and [Company] can be held liable. By following the guidelines in this policy, the e-mail user can minimize the legal risks involved in the use of e-mail. If any user disregards the rules set out in this E- mail Policy, the user will be fully liable and [Company] will disassociate itself from the user as far as legally possible. A company needs to implement etiquette rules for the following three reasons: Professionalism: by using proper e-mail language your company will convey a professional image. Efficiency: e-mails that get to the point are much more effective than poorly worded e-mails. Confidential 3/26/2009
  4. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 4 of 22 Protection from liability: employee awareness of e-mail risks will protect your company from costly lawsuits. Confidential 3/26/2009
  5. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 5 of 22 • E-mail etiquette tips In personal relationships the conventions of behavior are called etiquette. In e-mail we have netiquette – a set of rules for e-mail that have evolved over the years. Effective communication gives a professional impression of you and of your organization. There are many etiquette guides and many different etiquette rules. Some rules will differ according to the nature of your business and the corporate culture. Below I am listing what I consider as the most important e-mail etiquette rules. Use of ‘To’, ‘Cc’ and ‘Bcc’:  The addresses in the 'To' are for the people you are directly addressing  Putting one e-mail address in the ‘To’ field is absolutely ok, nothing wrong in it, but problem starts when someone places all the e-mail addresses in the ‘To’ field. In that case (1) the recipient knows that you have sent the same message to a large number of recipients, and (2) you are publicizing someone else's e- mail address without their permission. One way to get round this is to place all addresses in the ‘Bcc’ (Blind Carbon Copies) field. However, the recipient will only see the address from the ‘To’ field in their e-mail, so if this was empty, the ‘To’ field will be blank and this might look like spamming. So it is not at all encouraged to write any official e-mail by putting the recipient’s names into ‘Bcc’. You could include the mailing list e-mail address in the ‘To’ field, or even better, if you have Microsoft Outlook and Word you can do a mail merge and create one message for each recipient. A mail merge also allows you to use fields in the message so that you can for instance address each recipient personally.  Except these ‘To’ and ‘Bcc’ there is another field, ‘Cc’ which some times gives no clue to the sender about it’s purpose. The addresses in the 'Cc' are for the people you are indirectly addressing. They are the FYI-ers or CYA-ers. Copy only those who need to be copied, not your entire universe of contacts. Confidential 3/26/2009
  6. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 6 of 22  Try not to use the ‘Cc’ field unless the recipient in the ‘Cc’ field knows why they are receiving a copy of the message. Using the ‘Cc’ field can be confusing since the recipients might not know who is supposed to act on the message. Also, when responding to a ‘Cc’ message, should you include the other recipient in the ‘Cc’ field as well? This will depend on the situation. In general, do not include the person in the ‘Cc’ field unless you have a particular reason for wanting this person to see your response. Again, make sure that this person will know why they are receiving a copy. For clear cut understanding “To” line is for someone who needs to directly respond to an e-mail and the “Cc” line is an “fyi” courtesy; usually, “Cc” recipients needn’t feel obliged to reply. Do not overuse Reply to All:  The 'Reply to All' button is just a button, but it can generate tons of unnecessary e-mails. For example, if I send a dozen people an e-mail asking if they are available at a certain time for a meeting I should get a dozen replies and that's it. However, if each person hits the ‘Reply to All' button not only do I get a dozen replies, but so does everyone else for a total of 144 messages!  Some times earlier one corporate trainer in Toronto, Mr. Stratten, worked at a manufacturing firm where employees seemed addicted to trading ‘reply to all’ e-mails. ”Every comment, every ‘I agree’, every ‘uh-huh’ was sent to very staff member”, he says.  Use Reply to All if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message. Use a meaningful subject:  Try to use a subject that is meaningful to the recipient as well as yourself. Clearly summarize the contents of your message in the subject line. Properly Confidential 3/26/2009
  7. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 7 of 22 titled messages help people organize and prioritize their e-mail. Style of using short and descriptive subjects always been appreciated.  The mantra to compose a SMART subject is: S pecific M eaningful  A ppropriate R elevant T houghtful  Avoid using URGENT and IMPORTANT. Even more so than the high- priority option, you must at all time try to avoid these types of words in an e-mail or subject line. Only use this if it is a really, really urgent or important message. What you put in your subject line can often mean the difference between whether your message is read right now, today, tomorrow, next week or never! Careful regarding attachment: Regarding the attachment there are mainly two important things to be considered 1) Size of the attachment and 2) secured and safe attachment.  Back in dial-up days it was recommended that all attachments be held to 1MB in size. However, in today's ever expanding broadband world, things are a little different. For users on dial-up, the 1MB limit still applies. For users on broadband or a direct connection, the size may exceed up to 5 MB. HOWEVER, this is not a blanket recommendation to send attachments of this size. Even if user is on broadband or a direct connection, there is no guarantee that their mailbox can handle it. With limits this small you can see Confidential 3/26/2009
  8. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 8 of 22 that sending someone a 5MB attachment will quickly fill their mailbox and cause other e-mails to bounce. Generally, the only time one send attachments of the 5MB size is when he/she knows the other party is expecting it. But it is always better to compress the attachment if its size exceeds the normal size of attachment recommended by the company. By sending large attachments you can annoy customers and even bring down their e-mail system. Wherever possible try to compress attachments and only send attachments when they are productive.  Moreover, you need to have a good virus scanner in place since your customers/mail recipients will not be very happy if you send them documents full of viruses!  Do not copy a message or attachment belonging to another user without permission of the originator. Correct time and date:  It can be very confusing if your computer doesn’t have the correct time and date set. Help to keep a track of your messages and help everyone else too, by setting the time and date correctly. Greeting and sign off:  Many people dislike receiving messages without these courtesies. There are mainly two reasons for a greeting (Hello Bhaskar, Hi Vidya, Dear Mr Gagan). Firstly it is mainly just plain courteous, and secondly it’s confirmation to the reader that the message is for them and not just a cc or ‘Bcc’.  For a sign off also two good reasons firstly again for courtesy, and secondly it is confirmation that the message is finished. Confidential 3/26/2009
  9. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 9 of 22 Writing the context of the mail: Here comes the art of combining the beauty of letter writing and professionalism in same place. Although some of the readers will not agree in this point. They can argue on the point that official e-mail writing is totally separate from the style of earlier letter writing. It is better to drop the point and concentrate on some of the basic guidelines which should be followed while writing the official e-mails.  Be concise and to the point: Do not make an e-mail longer than it needs to be. Remember that reading an e-mail is harder than reading printed communications and a long e-mail can be very discouraging to read. Remember your ABC A ccurate Check facts carefully, Include all relevant details, Proofread thoroughly B rief Keep sentences short, Use simple expression, non-technical language C lear Use plain English, write in an easy, natural style, Avoid formality or familiarity  Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation: This is not only important because improper spelling, grammar and punctuation give a bad impression to the receiver, it is also important for conveying the message properly. E- mails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text.  Use proper structure & layout: Since reading from a screen is more difficult than reading from paper, the structure and lay out is very important for e-mail messages. Use short paragraphs and blank lines between each paragraph. When making points, number them or mark each point as separate to keep the overview. Confidential 3/26/2009
  10. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 10 of 22  Do not write in CAPITALS: IF YOU WRITE IN CAPITALS IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING. This can be highly annoying and might trigger an unwanted response in the form of a flame mail. Therefore, try not to send any e-mail text in capitals.  Be careful with formatting: Remember that when you use formatting in your e-mails, the sender might not be able to view formatting, or might see different fonts than you had intended. When using colors, use a color that is easy to read on the background.  Take care with rich text and HTML messages: Be aware that when you send an e-mail in rich text or HTML format, the sender might only be able to receive plain text e-mails. If this is the case, the recipient will receive your message as a .txt attachment. Most e-mail clients however, including Microsoft Outlook, are able to receive HTML and rich text messages.  Do not use e-mail to discuss confidential information: Be careful regarding the sharing of confidential information.  Avoid long sentences: Try to keep your sentences to a maximum of 15-20 words. E-mail is meant to be a quick medium and requires a different kind of writing than letters. Also take care not to send e-mails that are too long. If a person receives an e-mail that looks like a dissertation, chances are that they will not even attempt to read it!  Remember the KISS principle: Business people today have many documents to read. A message that is direct and straight to the point – while retaining courtesy – will be appreciated. As you work on developing your writing ability, you should constantly practice your KISSing skills. KISS stands for: K eep  It S hort & S imple Kiss means instead of long or complex words use short ones: Instead of Say regarding about require need advise, inform tell Confidential 3/26/2009
  11. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 11 of 22 assist help kindly please terminate end dispatch send Confidential 3/26/2009
  12. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 12 of 22  Use a smiley to make sure that a statement is not misunderstood: Smiley is typically used in personal e-mail and is not considered appropriate for business. They should rarely be used in the office. If your message needs a smiley for better understanding, most likely you should not be delivering it via e-mail. Even with a smiley, someone may misunderstand you. Smiley should be used to support a statement. It's rude to write something mean or derogatory, and then place a happy smiley at the end of the sentence. Refer to the Smiley article for a list of commonly used ones. But if you are not sure whether your recipient knows what it means, it is better not to use it. This Means This :-) Smiley face ;-) Wink (light sarcasm) :-| Indifference :-> Devilish grin (heavy sarcasm) 8-) Eye-glasses :-D Shock or surprise :-/ Perplexed :-( Frown (anger or displeasure) :-P Wry smile ;-} Leer :-Q Smoker :-e Disappointment :-@ Scream :-O Yell :-* Drunk  Too Much Punctuation!!! Don't get caught up in grammar and punctuation, especially excessive punctuation. You'll see lots of e-mail messages where people put a dozen exclamation points at the end of a sentence for added emphasis. Big deal. Exclamation points (called "bangs" in computer circles) are just another form of ending a sentence. Confidential 3/26/2009
  13. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 13 of 22 If something is important it should be reflected in your text, not in your punctuation.  Abbreviations: In business e-mails, try not to use abbreviations such as OBO (or best offer) and LOL (laugh out loud). The recipient might not be aware of the meanings of the abbreviations and in business e-mails these are generally not appropriate. This Means This BCNU be seeing you BTW by the way FWIW for what it's worth FYI for your information Gr8 Great OBO or best offer ROTFL rolling on the floor laughing RTFM read the funny manual TNSTAAFL there's no such thing as a free lunch TTYL talk to you later ASAP As soon as possible ASL Age,sex,location? B4 Before CYA See ya EOD End of discussion FAQ Frequently Asked Question Plz Please GM Good Morning Thx Thanks Y Why TC Take care NW No way KIT Keep in touch CU See you Confidential GL Good Luck 3/26/2009
  14. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 14 of 22 Confidential 3/26/2009
  15. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 15 of 22 But nowadays abbreviation usage is quite rampant with e-mail. In the quest to save keystrokes, users have traded clarity for confusion (unless you understand the abbreviations). Some of the more common abbreviations are listed in the table above. But it is recommend that you use abbreviations that are already common to the English language, such as 'FYI' and 'BTW'. Beyond that, you run the risk of confusing your recipient. Salutation & Signatures:  In a non-business situation, it is recommended that you bypass the standard formalities. At most, only include something along the lines of "Dear Virgil" or just "Virgil". In the business situation, things are much more complicated. Each situation will need to be evaluated on its on, but in general, use the following as a guide: If you normally address a person as Miss/Mrs./Ms./Mr. Arun then that's the way they should be initially addressed in e-mail. If you normally call them by their first name then either omit the salutation or follow the guideline specified in the prior paragraph. If you are unsure, stick to the formal salutation. It's the safest bet.  If you had to guess what a signature was (the e-mail version), you would probably be close. On a paper document (save a tree, send e-mail) it's typical to close the document with the following: Anupam Dutta I Will Follow... Services Since it's not possible (yet) to sign your e-mail, users will sometimes include the same information (minus the signature) at the bottom of their e-mail messages. Confidential 3/26/2009
  16. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 16 of 22 In precise, adding a signature should follow these guidelines:  If your e-mail address is a business address, it should include your title and company name in the signature  You will sometimes run across a user's signature that contains a quote (as in "...the secret to life is that there is no secret.") after the person's name. This has become a fairly common practice. If you choose this option it is recommended that the quote be something that is a reflection of yourself. Keep it short. You don't want the quote to be longer than the message  You should keep the total number of lines for the signature down to four or less. Food for Thought “Thank you!” Why do so many people need to say ‘Thank you’ at the end of a message? Thank you for what? For reading my letter? If you have been courteous throughout your communication then why to say ‘Thank you’ over and over again just because someone read your e-mail? Confidential 3/26/2009
  17. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 17 of 22 Add disclaimers to your e-mails:  It is important to add disclaimers to your internal and external mails, since this can help protect your company from liability. Consider the following scenario: an employee accidentally forwards a virus to a customer by e-mail. The customer decides to sue your company for damages. If you add a disclaimer at the bottom of every external mail, saying that the recipient must check each e-mail for viruses and that it cannot be held liable for any transmitted viruses, this will surely be of help to you in court (read more about e-mail disclaimers). Another example: an employee sues the company for allowing a racist e-mail to circulate the office. If your company has an e-mail policy in place and adds an e-mail disclaimer to every mail that states that employees are expressly required not to make defamatory statements, you have a good case of proving that the company did everything it could to prevent offensive e-mails. Don't reply to spam. By replying to spam or by unsubscribing, you are confirming that your e-mail address is 'live'. Confirming this will only generate even more spam. Therefore, just hit the delete button or use e-mail software to remove spam automatically. These are the general instruction that is sufficient to make your e-mail an official e-mail. But how many of you think that an official mail doesn’t mean a hard, boring paragraph sent by some dull person? If you think that your e-mail should be read by your recipients with interest then put yourself in the place of the recipient and imagine how they will accept your message. Never think than you are talking to a computer! There’s a real live person at the other end. So here come some interesting thoughts to make your e-mail interesting: Confidential 3/26/2009
  18. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 18 of 22 Informality can be OK in e-mails: Replace formal salutation like ‘Dear Leslie’ with ‘Hi Leslie’ or even just ‘Leslie’. Similarly, replace ‘Yours sincerely’ with ‘Best wishes’ or some other informal closing. Use active not passive voice: Passive voice was preferred by our great- grandfathers because they didn’t want to show any responsibility in their writing. It also creates a distance between the writer and the reader. But our writing today, however should show responsibility and it should be more personal and natural, more focused. Instead of Say The new UTC was developed by our Our staff developed the new UTC. staff. The cheque was presented to the The Prince of Wales presented the charity by the Prince of Wales cheque to the charity Use appropriate tone: If your message is to achieve its purpose the tone must be appropriate. The tone of your message reflects the spirit in which you put your message across. Instead of Say We cannot do anything about your Unfortunately we are unable to problem. help you on this occasion. This problem would not have The problem may be resolved by happened if you had given the giving the correct connection sting. correct connection string. Write naturally and sincerely: Try to show a genuine interest in your reader and his/her problem. Your message should sound sincere while written in your own style. Write naturally, as if you are having a conversation. Instead of Say I have a pleasure in informing you I am pleased to tell you. Confidential 3/26/2009
  19. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 19 of 22 I should be grateful if you would be Please let me know good enough to advise Please revert to us soonest Hope to hear from you soon We do not anticipate any increase in We do not expect prices to rise price Careful about the emotion: Emotions are hard to convey in e-mails. Some people type out exactly what they would say without thinking of the tone of voice that would be used to signal their emotions. With the e-mails all we have are words. So without right tone, misunderstanding could easily happen. So many long-winded expressions: Long words and long expressions, long sentences and long paragraph will impress on one – they will only confuse. Tapping away at the keyboard as you think, it is easy to allow sentences to become too long. Read through your message carefully and improve clarity and understanding. Instead of Say I should be glad if you Please would In spite of the fact that despite With regard to about In the very near future soon Enumerate with numbers or bullets: Present your message attractively. Use numbers, bullets or sub-headings if possible – this will add to the clarity of your message. Besides above guidelines there are some practices which are effective in official e-mail communication. Confidential 3/26/2009
  20. E-mail Etiquette V1.0 Page 20 of 22 Read the e-mail before you send it. A lot of people don't bother to read an e-mail before they send it out, as can be seen from the many spelling and grammar mistakes contained in e-mails. Apart from this, reading your e-mail through the eyes of the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate comments. Do not forward chain letters. Do not forward chain letters. We can safely say that all of them are hoaxes. Just delete the letters as soon as you receive them. Do not request delivery and read receipts. This will almost always annoy your recipient before he or she has even read your message. Besides, it usually does not work anyway since the recipient could have blocked that function, or his/her software might not support it, so what is the use of using it? If you want to know whether an e-mail was received it is better to ask the recipient to let you know if it was received. Do not ask to recall a message. Biggest chances are that your message has already been delivered and read. A recall request would look very silly in that case wouldn't it? It is better just to send an e-mail to say that you have made a mistake. This will look much more honest than trying to recall a message. Answer swiftly. Confidential 3/26/2009
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