email etiquette

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					Email Etiquette Workshop

           Brought to you by the
           Purdue University Writing
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

   Try to keep your line length at 80 characters or
   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
                             •  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,
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.
                 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
                 “This file is in MSWord
                  2000 under the name
General Tips for Electronic Mailing

   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
 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
Delivering Bad News

   Deliver the news up
   Avoid blaming
   Avoid hedging words or
    words that sound
   Maintain a positive
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
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
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
   Be sure you have
    permission to
    communicate with your
    professors via email.
   Complaints about grades
    and projects should
    generally be discussed in
   Post your concerns or
    questions in a timely
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.
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
                                 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:
                  –   On the web:

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