Business Email “Netiquette”

A combination of the words “network,” and “etiquette,” the term “netiquette” is basically what has been called good manners, applied to technology.

NetiquetteBut while most of us can state a few of the universals (such as using all capital letters can be interpreted as shouting – don’t do it), which indeed is universally the case, there are distinct differences between email in business, emailing friends and family, and email in the school situation, to be considered.

For example, some authorities recommend using emoticons (smiley faces, frowning faces, and so on) as good shortcuts – in the informal situation. Most agree they should not be used in a business email. So let’s take look at six serious tips for effective business email netiquette.

1. Many companies and organizations provide a sort of style manual with netiquette guidelines to clarify for their employees what is acceptable, and what is not, in their emails. In addition to matters of safety, basic courtesy, and privacy, these guidelines define how that company, or that organization wants to be represented to its various email audiences.

2. Do not send to a list, or “reply all” without first knowing who is on that list, and removing anyone who does not need to receive a particular email. Time after time, in every discussion of effective email, the winner of the “ineffective award” is the practice of sending everything to everyone. A major time-waster within the organization, a source of irritation, and an invitation to the potential reader to delete without reading. This result is compounded when the writer becomes known for sending, or replying to all – whether they need the information, or not.

3. Be careful of the tone you use. While you obviously are not about to correct a client, or a superior in your organization, avoid the temptation to “reply all” – especially when a co-worker makes a mistake – maybe a spelling error, using the wrong word, giving an overlong answer, or asking a “stupid question.” It’s important to maintain a teamwork mentality. Minor errors internally can often be ignored. If the error is more serious, discuss the issue privately, or with an email only to the individual involved.

4. Don’t impose on your reader’s time. Keep your messages focused, and as short as possible. Many people use mobile devices and phones for email, in most cases making a long message difficult to read. Focus will help to get your email read, make your point, or provide information as quickly, and as briefly as possible.

Keep in mind that while the common abbreviations, e.g., LOL (laugh out loud), BTW (by the way), or BRB (be right back) are used to write faster, and shorten the message in an informal email, they are neither professional nor appropriate in the business situation.

5. Avoid giving offense. Keep in mind, and be sensitive to the cultural and language differences among your readers. Use good taste certainly in the business situation, and also when writing to your other email readers. Avoid profanity, slang that could be misunderstood, and rude, hurtful, or judgmental comments. Things that may seem funny when spoken often come across the wrong way in email.

6. Be professional. Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Spellchecker can be a good starting point, and your spelling, grammar, thesaurus, and dictionary tools are just a fingertip away. Be sure to do a final personal “eyeball check” before hitting “send.”

Additionally, use a professional email address for business correspondence. Avoid an address that could be construed as too informal, suggestive, or carry a possible negative connotation.

Please comment below, and share your favorite email pets and peeves!

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Good Manners, Good E-mail

Good and Bad manners in e-mailConsider the tone of your message.  Tone is the relationship the writer sets up with the reader.  Even though email is a friendly medium, it’s tough to make humor (especially humor clothed in sarcasm) or tongue-in-cheek comments work in email, and it’s best to avoid them.  Also avoid personal comments about others, or knee-jerk emotional responses – email is no place for sarcasm, hostility, cynicism, or whining.

Remain professional at all times.  Consider waiting a bit before emailing a “sensitive” message.  Avoid “venting,” vulgarity, or certainly, any kind of profanity.  Think about your corporate culture, or prevailing attitude – which can be especially critical for emails to co-workers.
If you receive an email that you cannot answer immediately – perhaps one requesting information requiring research, or an answer that needs more time to put together, let your reader know right away that you have received his or her message, that you are, or will be working on it, and approximately when you will be able to respond.

Allow sufficient time. Your email could be received within minutes – or hours.  Even though your system may interrupt to announce a new message, it’s best to avoid time-sensitive communications (e.g., announcing a staff meeting in half an hour).  Email is designed for convenience, not necessarily for immediacy.

Remember that email is a two-way communication.  Consider what your reader has to say on an issue. Do not assume that no answer means agreement – or even understanding.

On deadline issues, ask for the follow-up, confirmation, or answers you need by a certain date.   If you get no acknowledgement, follow up until you do.  Consider international time differences, and take cultural expectations and practices into account when emailing internationally. Here’s an interesting comment we hear often: If everything you write is “important,” with a deadline attached, the reader may tend to discount the importance of anything you write.

 

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What’s in a Name?

What's in a nameAs kids, many, if not most of us were instructed to call adults by name. Depending on when, and where you grew up, that name could have been the traditional “Mr.,” Mrs.” or “Miss.” Also on the formal side, it could have been “Dr.,” “Reverend,” or “Professor.”

Somewhat less formally, we might have been able to call a physician or dentist who was a close family friend as well, something like “Dr. Larry.” Your mother’s close friend may have been called “Auntie Susan.” She may have arrived with “Uncle Colin.” Now, as adults, we may still call our older friends and “special people” by the names we learned years ago.

And some parents and friends preferred just a first name.

Names, we learned, are important. Not only for identification, but, depending on how they’re used, to create or reinforce a “tone” – the relationship that, in writing, the writer establishes with the reader. As has been attributed to Robert C. Lee, “The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of his own name.”

Names – the correct name, correctly spelled and appropriately used – can make a huge difference both in business and in personal life!

My toddler granddaughter and I were walking out to the garden one day, and I made the mistake of calling her by her first name. Through her tears, she reminded me that she was not the name I had called her, but that she was my “little chipmunk” – the nickname I had given her, and obviously the name she preferred, and how she saw herself.

Names have been important since ancient times, when it was believed that if you could name someone, you could control him or her. And that if you could name an issue, you could get hold of it, and control it.

“Labels” can be names as well. For example, do you label yourself as an introvert? You probably are, or will be. If you call yourself a math super star, you very possibly will do better in math than if you label yourself a math dunce.

Watch how you “name” yourself. What you tell people you do, or who you tell them you are. What you can talk yourself into being.

Names are important.

Here are five tips for “naming” in business:

1. Do not use ”he,” “his,” or “him” when you are referring to humankind in general. To avoid sexism, you can reword the sentence using a generic term for his or her position.
Campaigning eliminates a politician’s privacy.

2. You can use a plural name, and “they,” or “their.”
Politicians lose their privacy when they run for office.

3. Use optional pronouns.
A politician cannot expect privacy when he or she runs for office.

4. In a formal letter, avoid using a gender-specific salutation, such as “Dear Sir,” “Dear Madam,” or “Gentlemen” unless you know for certain the gender of your specific reader or readers. If you do not know, you can use “Dear (title),” “Dear Madam or Sir,” or “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen.” With a less-formal email, salutations are frequently not used at all.

5. Avoid making a point of the gender of a person in a formerly non-traditional role. Use “police officer,” rather than “policeman” or “police woman.” Consider using “nurse,” rather than “male nurse,” for another example.

We invite you to subscribe to our blog, and to our newsletter.
Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Count to Ten: Unpleasant Communication on the Job

 

WomanatComputer175

Until, or unless completely emotionless robots run our world, unpleasant communication issues will continue to exist on the job. And so, as one popular phrase puts it, we will just have to deal with it.

How?

What do you do when you receive an unpleasant, or even a downright angry email, phone call, or visit? How do you deal with it?

Many will tell you that you cannot be logical and emotional at the same time. Some will say, “Count to 10.” That old dictum can be very useful for collecting your thoughts. And in collecting your thoughts, you can move easily from emotion to logic.

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What Do You Call People?

ThinkingWoman170With email what to call your reader is frequently a non-issue, because many email writers just begin with what they have to say, using no greeting at all.

Some participants in my workshops are offended by this practice, and want a friendly word – maybe even just their name will do it for some. Others want a “hi,” or a “good morning.” A very few like a simple pleasantry, asking for the family, the kids, or perhaps the weekend golf game. To avoid giving offense, consider your reader, his or her probable preference, and the tone you want to establish or reinforce with that reader.

At least an equal, and growing number say, “just the facts, Ma’am!” and happily cut their reading time by getting to the meat of the issue immediately.

But what about the more formal emails, like letters? If your company has an established style for this type of correspondence, use it. If not, here are a few guidelines:

A longer, formal, traditional letter will probably be an attachment to a short email cover letter. For a formal letter, even when emailed, the rules of date, inside address, greeting, body, complimentary close, and signature line are also traditional. Most organizations use an electronic version of their letterhead as well.

If you call your reader “Dear Mr. Smith” on the letter, call him “Mr. Smith” on the cover letter as well. If you call him “Dear Joe,” then it’s acceptable to call him the same in the cover letter. Use the appropriate level of familiarity. “Miss,” “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” or “Mr.” are all acceptable titles, and “Ms.” is a convenient title when you are unsure, or simply prefer it. Professional titles are always acceptable, and frequently preferable. Consider your reader, your tone, and your purpose for writing.

Be aware of gender bias. Here are some tips: Continue reading

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Before You Hit “Send”: Final Email Checkpoints

WomanatComputer175

Unless it’s an attachment, odds are that in most cases your email will be fairly short – a screen to a screen-and-a-half maximum. And because we write so many of them, we need to write them quickly. The shorter, the better – and out of here!

Business writing is a tool to get a job done. To make it easier for your email to do its job and avoid snags along the way, here are ten quick things to check before you send it.

1. First of all, ask yourself, “Should this information be passed along at all?” If not, don’t.

If Yes, Continue reading

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Ten Tested “How To’s” for Clearer Writing

womanTyping250How frustrating! You put a great deal of thought into that last memo or instruction, and your co-worker doesn’t get it. You thought you had a good plan for this piece. So what happened? Let’s take a look at our “how to” checklist – 10 quick and easy things you can do to help your writing communicate clearly; to help your reader “get it” at a glance.

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Hello 2014 – Fare Well, 2013!

Over last weekend, I’ll bet many of you, like me, were busy packing away ornaments, deciding which candles can be used again, and trying to find a youth organization to give our retired trees to for recycling. Or at least, again, like me – thinking about it!

And now it’s serious back-to-work time. Time to try something new. I’m not quite ready for 2014 yet – what happened to 2010, anyway? So, with a final salute, let’s wrap up 2013 with the Best of the Blog – a short collection of my top nineteen posts of that year, as judged by the number of “likes” each garnered. An “e-book” for want of a better name, and the first e-book I’ve ever done.

I’d like to give this compilation to you as a thought-starter. A new way of thinking about your writing. Or maybe as a way to address a New Year’s resolution to strengthen your on-the-job writing, making it faster, easier, and more effective. Totally free. Please email me (gail@gailtycer.com), and I’ll send you the free link.

We’ll talk about:

1. If You’ve Ever Said, “I Wasn’t Good at English in School…” Read This!

2. How to Say It When You Can’t Think of What to Say

3. Shorter, Fewer Emails

4. Strategic Email

5. Meeting Minutes

6. Writing a Successful Instruction

7. Writing a Powerful Presentation – Getting Started

8. Writing a Powerful Presentation – Finishing Strong

9. How to Write a Business Thank You Note

10. Nine Places to Find Ideas for Your Blog Post

11. “Spin”

12. Hide, Hedge, Mask, and Cloud?

13. How to Offend, Anger, or Frustrate Without Realizing It

14. How Many Common Writing Errors Do You Make?

15. Stronger, More Powerful Sentences

16. What Was That Again?

17. Words That Create Mix-Ups

18. Words, Words, Words…

19. Fatigue-Reducing, Confidence-Building Phrases

We’ll also include a few of our weekly Quick Tips, answering some of those pesky grammar questions.

So here’s to 2013, wrapped up with a bow – and on to a great new year: 2014. Let me know how I can help you to achieve your business writing goals this year. I’m totally committed to helping you write less, say more – and get results in 2014.

If you like what you’re reading, we invite you to subscribe to our blog.

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

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How Important is a Thank You Note – Really?

Thank You Card

Take just a moment to think about that person in your life who always sends you a thank you note.  In our family, Cousin Harriet comes to mind. Her thank you notes are gifts in themselves. They make you feel good. Happy about whatever small service or gift, and eager to see her “next time.”

Can your thank you note do this for your friend or family member? Of course. And what a privilege it is to write that note, knowing you are brightening the day for Aunt Minnie or Uncle George, who spent hours online, or at the Mall, finding just the right thing to brighten your holiday.

A hand-written note – on paper and through the U.S. Mail – is often the best. A hand-written note, on paper, has a more lasting quality. In some cases, an email, a text message, or even a quick phone call of thanks may be more appropriate. What is important is to let that person who has done you a service, or sent you a gift, know that you sincerely appreciate his or her effort.

Is this equally true in business?

Absolutely. Things can often be so rushed that we may forget to say thank you. To let the people who do so much for us know how much we appreciate we appreciate them. To let them know that what they do is important to us, and that it matters in the business situation. It’s the right thing to do.

Please note: We are not talking about “form” thank you letters, printed postcards, or even a thank you note offering a discount on future purchases. These are advertising messages, not a sincere, personal thank you.

One of our readers, Holly, commented that she makes a conscious effort to write at least one hand-written note of appreciation each week.

The key is – you must really mean it. Readers have a built-in ability to sense when a message is sincerely meant, and when it is just words. This week, finish those holiday thank you notes to your “Aunt Minnie” or “Uncle George.” Then think about those in your business life whose days you can brighten with a sincere “thank you.” Personalize that message with believable specifics. And get it done – if only one each week.

See you next week!

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to our blog.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

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A Heartfelt Thank You, and More About Email

May you have a truly joyful holiday season! Thank you so much for being a loyal reader of this weekly blog. Your emails and comments mean a great deal.

Now let me share a couple of emails on last week’s postHappyHoliday240:

“That first tip is such a good idea. I got one message from someone I doubt would have sent it if she had taken the time to think it over before sending – and perhaps would have modified the tone. It changed my opinion of her permanently….I think prompt replies are a must, too. Your ideas certainly make for a more civil society.”

Thank you, Carla. Not only is a “civil society” a more pleasant environment to live in, but in the business situation, leads to greater productivity!

“I enjoyed your latest post. I learned Tip #1 the hard way when I inadvertently sent something out prematurely. It wasn’t a disaster, but it conditioned me to the possibility, so any sensitive e-missive gets addressed after it’s finished.”

“I have another email tip….use structure to make your emails easy to absorb….My rule is  ‘aim for one screen’s worth, but spread it out so people can see the whole, note the pieces, and get to your point quickly.’”

Thank you, Harry. I like to say that writing is a visual art. How it looks on the screen (or on paper) can determine how – or if – your reader will “get it,” remember it, and act on it.

Here’s another email tip for today:

There are four types of email: (1) The original email; (2) the reply; (3) the cover letter for an attachment; and (4) the attachment. Each is handled slightly differently.

(1)   In the original email, aim for one paragraph, not more than five lines. This should work for at least half of your emails, if you tell your reader who-what-when-where-how.

(2)   Many times, the reply, like the original you are replying to, can be answered in one paragraph, five lines or less. In no case should either the original, or the reply, be longer than a screen to a screen-and-a-half. If your reply needs to be longer than that, make it an attachment with a cover letter.

(3)   The cover letter will be short. Most of the time it will be that one paragraph, not more than five lines, telling the reader why you are sending the attachment, and what he or she is to do with, or about it, and when.

(4)   The attachment should be concise – that is, as short as you can make it, while still giving all the information needed. It can be printed out for the reader to read more easily. Printing it out reduces the potential irritation caused to the eye, as well as to your message, when there is too much to read comfortably online.

See you next week!

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to our blog.

We’ll be happy to bring a Gail Tycer workshop to your organization. To discuss a workshop for your people at your location or ours, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming meeting, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com

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