What is Email Etiquette?
The online Business dictionary defines Business Etiquette as:
Expected behaviors and expectations for individual actions within society, group, or class. Within a place of business, it involves treating coworkers and employer with respect and courtesy in a way that creates a pleasant work environment for everyone.
So for Email, I think it would be the expected behavior that involves treating coworkers, clients, your employer and friends with respect and courtesy when sending email.
Pretty much everyone in business is affected by email. In office environments people are often sending or receiving emails to communicate needs, requirements, and schedules or it is used to pass other non-email documents back and forth. The key to email is that it is a form of communication and although not verbal, it requires some of the same basic principles of being clear and concise. In many cases, email communication needs even more thought because you do not have the advantage of the non-verbal body language cues you get with face to face communication.
When addressing email recipients, be clear on who it is going to and who needs to be copied. There are three typical lines that can be used in an email correspondence, if you do not have these options, either your email program is very limited or they are turned off – typically the later. These three addressing options are “TO”, “CC”, and “BCC”. For those who may not be clear on their use it goes as follows:
This is for who the email is primarily addressed to. This can be more than one person, but it is typically only a few people. If you are addressing dozens or hundreds of people directly, you may wish to use an email mailing application that personalizes it a bit more than everyone’s name on the “TO” line. There are security and privacy issues that go along with this as well (See “BCC” section). Typically you would be addressing an individual or as said before a few people and then copying others to make sure they are “In the loop”.
Commonly accepted practice:
Anyone on the “TO” line is being directly addressed and comments or questions are being directed to them and they should respond.
This is important if you start asking questions or making comments that appear to need answers. If the email was addresses to everyone directly it would seem everyone needs to respond. The problem comes in when all these people do respond
CC: (Carbon Copy – as in old school carbon paper – get it?)
This line is used to copy other individuals that are not necessarily being directly addressed. Please do NOT use this for Email distribution lists or passing along funnies! (this means you Tom)…
Commonly accepted practice:
Anyone on the “CC” line is being copied for courtesy or information use, so that they know what is happening, what issues are being addressed, etc… but their response is not necessarily required. If you are “CC’d but you are specifically addressed in the body of the email itself, then that changes things and you should respond or act accordingly.
This is used to privately copy recipients and if you are distributing to dozens or hundreds of people and are not using a distribution list application or site – PLEASE use this line in lieu of the “CC” line. Why? Security and Privacy are the biggest reasons. If you have not heard of Malware, Spyware, Phishing, or SPAM you are living in a very sheltered world. All of these can originate from Viruses that infect a person’s machine and then harvest email addresses from that user’s email, address book or various other files on the local system. Once it gets these addresses it will send out emails to some or all of these addresses (each program works a little different) with the goal of infecting more systems. If an unprotected user gets one of these emails and downloads the attachment, clicks on a link in the email or sometimes just views it, the infection starts over and keeps spreading.
This is commonly spread when someone decides to CC all their friends on a joke or a small business or organization CCs all the members or potential customers, etc and one of those people is infected with one of the above. The BCC options strips the email address so that each recipient only sees that they received and email from someone and all the other recipients addresses are not available. As far as Privacy, maybe I do not want others knowing I am on your Email distribution list or maybe I do not want others that are CC’d to now add me to their mass marketing campaign. Yes some people will take all those addresses and use them for their own purpose – Which I will be doing one time to a large organization who does this repeatedly, even after I expressed the above concerns. It appears the only way to get off their “CC” broadcast is to quit the organization – so I did. So all their group members will get a free copy of this article. : )
If you are one of these offenders and you want to change your ways, there are options besides just putting everyone in the BCC line that will make your emails look a bit more professional. Try these links:
Creating a distribution list: (then BCC that list)
Send to Undisclosed Recipients:
Still lost? Drop me a line – I’ll try to help.
What is this email about? Blank subject lines are really annoying – did the sender not know what the email was about? Emails are not texts – they have a subject! Efficient users use the Subject line for sorting, searching and filing. Users that do not have a preview pane showing up (A Virus precaution) will get nothing under the subject line – should I open it / is it a real Email? Although this is annoying on a personal email basis – for business professionals – well it is unprofessional!
If you select the “important” option for all your emails, which it seems a lot of people tend to do, (because everything they do is important!) it is a lot like crying wolf. Someone looking over your shoulder might go – “Hey that email has that ‘Important’ symbol next to it – You better see what it is”. Nah – I’ll get to it later – they always use that – no matter what they send – if it is ‘that’ important they will call. Don’t get me wrong – I look at these on an individual basis, and if it is a new person or someone who rarely uses it – I will look at it right away – otherwise – it will wait in line just like the rest of the non-important emails.
How many times do I need to read the email to get what it means? This does not really take a lot, just start by using periods and commas. It’s not important that you put two spaces after a period in a sentence or whether you use a comma after the last item and before the ‘and’ in list of items, but using a period when a sentence ends and a comma where you would normally pause in a conversation would be a great start. Oh – and maybe some capitalization or – lack of. WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING AT ME?! (Caps lock is a toggle…)
If you are sending email as part of your work/business, please use spell check. An occasional misspell is understandable, but consistent spelling mistakes and horrible grammar in an email from a supposed professional is just sad in today’s world. In Outlook and Gmail it is an automatic feature – just turn it on and leave it.
Who are you, and how do I contact you if I have questions – other than a reply? How about a name, company and phone number as a minimum? So when firstname.lastname@example.org sends me a blank subject line email with no signature, marked as “important” stating:
WE ARE HAVING A ISUE WITH FILE CAN U PLEASE CALL AND FIX.
Well, I just wanna….
If you are on the “TO” line and sometimes on the “CC” line, you may wish to do or even be asked to Reply. when this happens – do a “Reply All” so that everyone has the benefit of your response – the others may need to hear what you have to say. And, if you don’t want everyone to “Reply All” as your emails states – do NOT “CC” everyone – because what other benefit is there to everyone seeing everyone else’s email?
- When addressing email recipients in business, be clear on who it is going to (TO:) and who needs to be copied (CC:).
- When sending to a bunch of Friends – use the “BCC” line.
- When sending to a Mail-list group – use the “BCC” line or other bulk-mail option – NOT “CC”.
- Enter a Subject
- Do NOT indicate ALL your Emails as “Important” – the more you do it, the less important your emails become.
- Spell and Grammar check if your email program supports it – if not, do it in Word and copy/paste.
- Don’t type in ALL CAPS
- Indicated more in your signature than your first name
Hey Walt, I just made some time to look at your blog and aren’t you just has handy as a pocket on a shirt! ;~) I don’t do distribution lists that often but I have now bookmarked the hyperlink you provided…thank you very much!
I will be checking in from time to time more.
Thanks for stopping by Dean!