"Email Etiquette Workshop"
Email Etiquette Workshop Brought to you by the Purdue University Writing Lab Why is email etiquette important? We all interact with the printed word as though it has a personality and that personality makes positive and negative impressions upon us. Without immediate feedback your document can easily be misinterpreted by your reader, so it is crucial that you follow the basic rules of etiquette to construct an appropriate tone. The elements of email etiquette General format Flaming Writing long messages Delivering information Attachments Delivering bad news The curse of surprises Electronic Mailing Lists General Format: The Basics Write a salutation for Use caps when each new subject email. appropriate. Try to keep the email Format your email for brief (one screen length). plain text rather than Return emails within the HTML. same time you would a phone call. Use a font that has a Check for punctuation, professional or neutral spelling, and look. grammatical errors General Format: Character Spacing Try to keep your line length at 80 characters or less. If your message is likely to be forwarded, keep it to 60 characters or less. Set your email preferences to automatically wrap outgoing plain text messages. General Format: Lists and Bullets When you are writing For example, directions or want to 1) Place the paper in emphasize important drawer A. points, number your 2) Click the green “start” directions or bullet your button. main points. Another example, • Improve customer satisfaction. • Empower employees. General Format: Tone • Write in a positive tone • Use smiles , winks ;), “When you complete the and other graphical report.” instead of “If you symbols only when complete the report.” appropriate. • Avoid negative words • Use contractions to add that begin with “un, non, a friendly tone. ex” or that end with (don’t, won’t, can’t). “less” (useless, non- existent, ex-employee, undecided). General Format: Addresses Avoid sending emails to more than four addresses at once. Instead, create a mailing list so that readers do not have to scroll too much before getting to the actual message. To: email@example.com Attachments When you are sending an attachment tell your respondent what the name of the file is, what program it is saved in, and the version of the program. “This file is in MSWord 2000 under the name “LabFile.” General Tips for Electronic Mailing Lists Avoid discussing private concerns and issues. It is okay to address someone directly on the list. Ex, “Hi Leslie, regarding your question” Change the subject heading to match the content of your message. When conflict arises on the list speak in person with the one with whom you are in conflict. When your message is long Create an “elevator” summary. Provide a table of contents on the first screen of your email. If you require a response from the reader then be sure to request that response in the first paragraph of your email. Create headings for each major section. Elevator Summary and Table of Contents An elevator summary Table of contents should have all the main “This email contains components of the email. A. Budget projections for “Our profit margin for the the last quarter last quarter went down B. Actual performance for 5%. As a result I am the last quarter proposing budget C. Adjustment proposal adjustment for the following areas…” D. Projected profitability” Delivering Information About Meetings, Orientations, Processes Include an elevator summary and table of contents with headings. Provide as much information as possible. Offer the reader an opportunity to receive the information via mail if the email is too confusing. Delivering Bad News Deliver the news up front. Avoid blaming statements. Avoid hedging words or words that sound ambiguous. Maintain a positive resolve. Delivering Bad News Deliver the news up front: Avoid using “weasel words” “We are unable to order or hedging: new computers this “Our pricing structure is quarter due to budget outdated.” cuts.” More examples of hedging are: Avoid blaming: Intents and purposes “I think it will be hard to Possibly, most likely recover from this, but Perhaps, maybe what can I do to help?” Writing a complaint • You should briefly state • Show why it is critical for the history of the the problem to be problem to provide resolved by your reader. context for your reader. • Offer suggestions on • Explain the attempts you ways you think it can be made previously to resolved or how you are resolve the problem. willing to help in the matter. Writing a complaint Briefly state the history: Show attempts made by “The current way we you thus far to resolve the issue: choose officers for our organization is not “I have offered two alternatives for officer democratic. As a result, selection that still we have a popularity involves the votes of the contest that does not members but both have always get us the best been rejected by the candidates.” executive board.” Writing a complaint Show why it is important for your reader to get involved: “This is a problem for two reasons. First, I am concerned that the executive board no longer protects the interests of the organization and that their actions are not in keeping with the constitution of the organization. Second, there have been a number of complaints from the members who feel that their concerns and preferences are not being addressed by the executive board, which decreases morale and productivity.” Writing a complaint Ask for help and offer a resolution: “Please let me know what other options I may have overlooked. I am willing to meet with the department head and the executive board to seek out a solution that is fair to the members and is good for the business of the organization. ” Do not take your reader by surprise or press them to the wall • Do not wait until the end of the day to introduce a problem or concern via memo or email. • Avoid writing a litany of concerns that you have been harboring for a long period of time. Taking Professors and TAs By Surprise Be sure you have permission to communicate with your professors via email. Complaints about grades and projects should generally be discussed in person. Post your concerns or questions in a timely manner. If you are a professor or instructor Be clear with your If you have cut off times students about whether for when you will they can contact you via respond to email, inform email. your students about Tell them what kinds of those times. subjects you are willing Seek consent from to deal with via email in students before case you have some discussing their emails in restrictions. the classroom. Flaming in emails • Flaming is a virtual term • Flame fights are the for venting or sending equivalent of food fights inflammatory messages and tend to affect in email. observers in a very • Avoid flaming because negative way. it tends to create a • What you say cannot be great deal of conflict taken back; it is in black that spirals out of and white. control. Keep flaming under control • Before you send an Read your message email message, ask twice before you send it yourself, “would I say and assume that you this to this person’s may be misinterpreted face?” when proofreading. • Calm down before responding to a message that offends you. Once you send the message it is gone. When you need to flame There are times when you may need to blow off Here’s a way to flame: some steam. Flame On Remember your Your message audience and your situation before sending Flame Off the email. Responding to a flame Empathize with the Avoid getting bogged sender’s frustration and down by details and tell them they are right if minor arguments that is true If you are aware that the If you feel you are right, situation is in the thank them for bringing process of being the matter to your resolved let the reader attention know at the top of the Explain what led to the response problem in question Apologize if necessary When Email Won’t Work There are times when you need to take your discussion out of the virtual world and make a phone call. If things become very heated, a lot of misunderstanding occurs, or when you are delivering very delicate news then the best way is still face- to face. For more information Contact the Purdue University Writing Lab with questions about audience and organization in writing email. – Drop In: Heavilon 226 – Call: 43723 – Email: – firstname.lastname@example.org – On the web: http://owl.english.purdue.edu