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Email Etiquette: Give Good Message

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We all know that moment at the computer when the decision to press "send" makes you stop and think...hmmmm. Is what I wrote clear? Did I write too much? Not enough? Does it "sound" rude? How much time is too long to reply? These and other common issues can be easily addressed with a few rules of email etiquette. Hitting "send" knowing you've been clear in your message can be as simple as the press of a button.

1. Say "Please and Thank you" - There is never a valid reason for bad manners. Even though it is an electronic message, you are still touching people with your words. This is an opportunity to impart goodwill and pleasantries with little effort.

2. Spelling Counts - Always spell-check. 'Nuff said.

3. The Proof is in The Pudding - Or in this case, the meaning. Take the time to read and re-read your message. Often you will find grammatical errors, use of an incorrect word, and unfinished ideas. Our brains work faster than we can type.

4. Don't "Drunk" Email - Stay off the computer after the after-dinner-drinks or else you might send the wrong message, literally and figuratively.

5. All Caps = Yelling! - No one likes to be yelled at in any form. An occasional word or two for emphasis is okay, but be sure it fits the meaning.


6. Don't Get Mad, Get Even - Like drunk emailing, this is a dangerous state of mind to be in while at the computer. No matter how angry you are, walk away, take a deep breath and plan out what must be addressed after you cool off. Then write it in draft form and re-read it the next day. If, and only if, you would be okay with it being published on the cover of the New York Times, hit send...otherwise, wait another day and revise, edit, or delete it. Let time be your cool-headed friend.

7. K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simply Succinct. Get to the point. When re-reading, edit out any "extra" info that is unnecessary or off-topic. People are busy, so streamline your message. If there are many issues or a list to address, then "number" or bullet point them so they are obvious to the reader. 

8. The Clock Is Ticking - Set a "reply time quota" for yourself to return emails. Be realistic. If you know that it takes you a few days to respond to non-urgent emails, that is fine. But stay on a program so people get a sense of your schedule. If an email slips through the cracks and weeks go by, then apologize at the opening and move on with the message - no one has time for excuses.

9. Privacy Is A State of Mind - It would be reassuring if everything we wrote on the Internet had implied privacy and confidentiality. It doesn't. Operate as if everything is, or could become, public knowledge. Using this approach will save you and your recipients from potential problems if sensitive information is ever disclosed.

10. The Permanent Record - It now really does exist. Every stroke of the keys that is sent is permanent. When in doubt, police your own content for any probable cause of trouble. Plus, use rules 1 - 9 to help avoid a message that might come back to haunt you.

Try these rules on your next email message. Make your online experience easier, safer, and clearer. With a little etiquette, you can give good message each time you hit "send."

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