Peter Post, a director of The Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt., offers these pointers for safer, smarter emailing.
Follow the bulletin board rule. “Don’t put anything in an email you wouldn’t put on a bulletin board to read,” Post said. An email should be treated as a public document, he said, adding, “If it’s something private, you shouldn’t put it in an email.”
Stick to the facts. Post said emails should address the classic questions: Who, what, when and where. Be careful about the “why,” however, because that could lead into opinion or might be misinterpreted.
Watch the tone. Email is not the same as a face-to-face or telephone exchange. There are no visual or aural yardsticks to determine what’s meant. Post said a good trick is to listen to how your email sounds. “When you are writing that difficult email, take the time to read it aloud,” he said. “You’ll hear the tone in your voice.”
And a few tips from Laura Stack of The Productivity Pro, writing on Microsoft’s website:
Use sentence case. Typing everything in capital letters is the email equivalent of shouting.
Don’t use email as an excuse to avoid personal contact. Email is not appropriate when sending confusing or emotional messages, to avoid an uncomfortable situation or to cover up a mistake.
Informal is OK, sloppy is not. Your email message reflects you, so spelling, grammar and punctuation rules apply.
Clarity counts in the subject field. Indicate the content and purpose of your email. Leaving it blank, or writing “Hi!” is confusing to the recipient and can get lost in a crowded inbox.
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