Think you know how to email? Well, you probably do. Just about anyone can type an email and hit the Send button. And a lot of people know what is acceptable and what is not. But I still get email from long-time computer users that violates some of the basic standards of email etiquette. So here are the 5 most important things to know and follow before you send your next email.
1. Don’t use all caps. When you type in all caps, you are yelling at the person you are emailing. Whether or not you perceive it that way does not matter; that’s the way it is. If you would not yell at your recipient face to face, don’t yell in your email. Of course, if that is the impression you want, then type at the top of your lungs.
2. Use a meaningful subject line. This is just common courtesy. I want to know what an email is about before I open it. And a week from now, when I have to go to another folder and find that email, it sure makes it a lot easier if there is a subject line that gives some indication of the email content.
3. Don’t forward junk email to everyone in your address book. In fact, if an email includes instructions that say to forward it to everyone you know, immediately delete that email. That’s Rule #1. Whatever you are sending, your recipients have seen it before. Probably multiple times. It was a hoax the first time, and it’s still a hoax. If I receive one of those junk email forwards, my first response is a polite “Please take me off this list – I get way too much email already.” (If you are concerned about being polite because the sender is a friend, there is now a free service that will send them an anonymous email for you.)
4. Reply. This seems like a no-brainer, but I know certain people to whom I can send an email, and I really don’t expect a response. That’s just rude. Responding to an email (at least one that requires a response) is the absolute minimum you should do. If possible, respond quickly, or at least in a reasonable amount of time. I also recommend that you quote the original email, so that your recipient remembers the context of your conversation.
5. Don’t put multiple email addresses in the “To:” field. Have you ever gotten one of those emails where the first full page is nothing but email addresses? Well, doesn’t that look professional. If you do find it necessary to send an email to a large group of people, send the email to yourself. Put everyone else’s email address in the BCC field. Since BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy, no one sees anyone else’s email address (they won’t even see their own). Here’s what it would look like to every recipient:
Subject: Here’s my meaningful subject line
Email is really not complicated; at least it doesn’t have to be. If we all follow the basic rules, it will make the experience a lot more enjoyable for everyone.