Des Moines Register 06-26-06 Sagario: Proper e-mail etiquette stamps seal of approval

Des Moines Register
Sagario: Proper e-mail etiquette stamps seal of approval
In business, first impressions can make or break you.
Flubbing names, engaging in salacious office gossip or sharing a bawdy joke can
quickly brand you as the office idiot, workplace rumormonger or incorrigible perv.
And you can do that all, in a matter of seconds — in just one e-mail.
There's no doubt e-mail has made work easier and more convenient. You can
"talk" to people in different time zones, converse with someone in another
country, or work while padding around in your jammies at home. (Not to mention
it's become the weapon of choice for cowardly, passive-aggressive co-workers
who fire off an e-mail and bolt — afraid to say stuff to your face. But that's a topic
for another column.)
E-mail etiquette, or netiquette, is nothing new. But with its pervasiveness in
business, it never hurts to get a quick refresher course on e-mail dos and don'ts.
A survey in January found that 71 percent of managers said e-mail is their most
common method of communication at work, up from 27 percent five years ago.
Just 13 percent of the senior executives polled said they relied on telephone
conversations as their main means of communication, according to OfficeTeam,
who developed the survey.
Sometimes, e-mail becomes the first, and only, mode of communication you'll
share in a business relationship. So it is critical to put your best virtual foot
"E-mail makes it possible to offend so many people at once with one e-mail," said
Marie Mayer, communications specialist with information technology
services at Iowa State University.
Mayer says the first thing to consider before dashing off an e-mail: Who is your
audience, and what makes you credible with that person or group?
Is this message being sent to the CEO of the company? Or is it a short note to
confirm a brainstorming meeting with co-workers?
It's also important to remember that 70 percent to 80 percent of what we convey
in a message to someone comes from nonverbal cues, like body language or
tone, Mayer said. "They're not there in e-mail."
For example, some people perceive using all capitals AS BEING YELLED AT.
But Mayer said she will occasionally put things in caps if she wants a portion of
the message to stand out, or will set it off from the rest of the text. "I avoid
Mayer's other tips for smoother e-mail correspondence:
- Use a descriptive subject line.
- Be concise. "I try to get what this is about in the very first sentence," she said. If
it's a long e-mail, summarize its content in the beginning.
- Use a "signature" at the end of your e-mail. Include your name, title, name of
your company and contact information, and e-mail address.
- Ask before you send an attachment with your e-mail. Call recipients to tell them
how big a file is, and ask whether their computer can handle it, Mayer said. In
some cases, you may want to use file transfer protocol, or FTP. In other
instances, she said, it may be easier to put the information on a CD and
overnight it to someone.
- If you're angry, don't e-mail. Write the message, but don't send it, Mayer
advised. "Let it marinate a while." If you still want to send the message, she said,
consider whether this is an exchange that would be conducted better face-toface.
Lastly, before you click "send," read over your message. "If the e-mail is
important enough to write, it's important enough to stop and give it a final review
before you send it."