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E-mail Etiquette Tips to Apply in Your Workplace

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July 20, 2007

Over the past decade, e-mail technology has enhanced our ability to communicate and changed the way that many of us work.  Although this technology has numerous benefits associated with its use, it also has potential downsides, including unintended damage to relationships.

E-mail etiquette is defined as “using e-mail technology effectively to communicate with knowledge, understanding, and courtesy.”  It provides a way for users to take advantage of the benefits while avoiding unanticipated consequences.

The following are 10 basic, yet essential, e-mail etiquette tips to apply in your workplace:

  1. Keep the recipient’s needs in mind when drafting an e-mail (e.g. ease of reading, punctuation, grammar, format, tone).
  2. Recognize that e-mails are only one means of communication, and consider whether another alternative may be more appropriate for the situation at hand (e.g. telephone call, meeting).
  3. Include information in the subject line that is meaningful and makes the e-mail easy to identify, file, and retrieve.
  4. Provide the reader with a brief overview of any important points that you plan to cover at the beginning of the e-mail.
  5. Use punctuation and grammar in accordance with acceptable standards for business communications, and proof for that purpose before sending.
  6. Ensure that your message is in compliance with your organization’s policies (e.g. harassment).
  7. Limit the list of recipients and those copied to persons who are directly involved with the subject and/or have a “need to know.”
  8. Before hitting the send button, check to ensure that your e-mail is addressed to the intended recipient.
  9. Remember that your e-mail can be forwarded and then forwarded again and again without  your knowledge.
  10. Ask yourself, “How will I feel tomorrow and what will the repercussions be if my e-mail shows up in newspaper headlines, is discussed on a morning talk show, or appears as evidence in  a  lawsuit?"

Barbara Richman, SPHR, is a Senior Consultant with HR Mpact, a human resource consulting firm providing services that include training, HR administration, policies and procedures, HR audits, employee/labor relations, and communications.  Training offered by HR Mpact includes: E-mail, Cell Phone, and Other Workplace Etiquette; Respect and Civility in the Workplace; Harassment-Free Workplace; Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Supervisory Training; and Discipline and Documentation.  Her e-mail address is [email protected] and telephone numbers are 901.685.9084 and 901.496.0462 (cell).    

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