Self-expression in email is important. So are keeping your job and keeping a clear line of communication with your team, your boss, your co-workers—and your significant other.
Here are some brief guidelines on how to make sure you are using email appropriately (and effectively). Of course, it’s just a matter of time before all email is called “Google+
” (yep, you heard it here first). In the meantime, consider this a roadmap to netiquette, until Facebook
From a recent post on westfallonline.com
, here are 12 common email disasters:
1. Thou shalt keep it clean.
No porn, no pictures of your body-business, no sharp language.
Why? Look at the button that says, “Forward.”
You can’t un-ring a bell, so choose your words (and images) carefully.
Always use a subject line, appropriate greeting, and a smart signature—no need for 14 lines about your academic and professional accomplishments
if we work together every day.
2. Thou shalt not rant.
Freedom of speech is a right, but exercising it means using it the right way. (Besides, it primarily applies to criticism of the government.) If you disagree with a recent policy announcement, going off in an email is probably not the best way to convey your displeasure.
Sure, you may feel better, until your boss comes in to discuss your attitude—or your employment! Seeking real change is about putting your emotions and passions into action, not (just) into an email so you can feel better.
3. Thou shalt not “reply all.”
Resist the temptation, and it will flee from you.
4. Thou shalt not SHOUT AT PEOPLE.
Laziness, plain and simple. Surprising, but people still do it. Why? STOP IT! (Oops, sorry. Moving on…)
5. Plan that time-sensitive info will fail, via email.
Planning is not a good use of email. “Who can make the meeting on Thursday?” is an email topic that will create endless spin and rescheduling, assuming everyone sees the message before Thursday.
What works best in email: information, instruction (or confirmation), and documentation.
Let people know that the meeting has been scheduled, and send out the meeting request. Verify key players via telephone or face to face. Email can’t do it all.
6. Beware the “BCC” and use it wisely.
When used with the “Reply All” button, you can get some surprises that no one wants and you didn’t intend. Caution!
7. Do not covet the ability to cc: 3 or more people.
It’s not always off limits, but it’s a yellow flag if you are cc’ing a multitude. Especially if you are cc’ing your boss’s boss, or otherwise going up the chain. Ranting or other violations, when combined with copying every singer in the choir, can be a real CLM (career-limiting move).
8. Remember that email is never the first/last/only communication tool.
Are you the gal who pontificates via email? Are you the dude who issues edicts, not emails? It’s easy to hide behind the keyboard and assume a different persona. Step out of the Matrix from time to time, and don’t let email be your only connection to your team, your co-workers or others. Relying on only one form of communication can be another CLM.
9. Thou shalt not choke your co-workers in-box with enormous attachments.
Just put that file on the server, or use Dropbox
or some other service. Be smart about large file transfers. ‘Nuff said.
10. Send commands via email wisely. Please. And thank you.
Because even if (or especially if) you’re the boss, how you ask for something is even more important than what you need. Before you hit “send,” ask yourself if you are being lazy, or being effective, with email.
Set an email policy, or open up a discussion within your department, so that others know where you stand. Email protocol is a bit of an unwritten law; there’s no manual, but there are expectations. What are yours?
11. Just. Don’t. Email..
Pick up the phone, or try MBWA (management by walking around).
12. Punish in private, praise in private. Be careful with both via email.
Email communication is one-way, so if you provide guidance and direction via the keyboard, remember the implied message comes across without tone or inflection. Sometimes your email hits harder than it should—especially true with praise or admonishment. There’s no hard and fast rule, but consider the power behind praise and punishment, and make sure the medium fits the message.
So, there you have it—ever been guilty of any of these sins? Or have you seen others send you their mistakes from time to time?
Chris Westfall is the national elevator pitch champion, a professional speaker, entrepreneur, and the author of Five Great New Elevator Pitches: How to use your elevator pitch to get a job, get a raise, get a date, and more. He is also business editor at 12 Most … blog, where a version of this story first appeared.