E-mail etiquette--Jasmine's Tech Dos & Don'ts
Get schooled by CNET editor Jasmine France. This week: Get some tips on keeping your professional e-mails polished and your personal e-mails inoffensive.
E-mail. Inarguably, it's one of the most important technological innovations of our time. Love it or hate it, the majority of us can't do without it either professionally or personally--or both. Fielding and composing e-mail takes up an ungodly amount of my time, so I have a deep appreciation for the many intricacies and annoyances that can go along with it. What follows is a handful of guidelines that are meant to make e-mail a little less exasperating.
We all deal with an overabundance of useless e-mail in our in-boxes, so above everything else, DON'T be a spammer. There's no need to forward every little cutesie e-mail you get to every person on your contact list. If you happen across a particularly funny joke or compelling picture that you know a specific individual will enjoy, by all means add a little enjoyment to his or her day by sharing it. However, DO delete chain mail immediately--you'll be doing all of us a favor by keeping it out of circulation.
Also, DO remember that BCC is your friend and use it where appropriate. Be aware that when you're organizing plans for or disseminating information to a large group of people, there's generally no need for any of those individuals to reply to anyone but you. This should be an obvious guideline when it comes to professional communications that are not intended to inspire a discussion among the various recipients--press and marketing e-mails, for example--but it's also a nice courtesy for your friends and family in many cases. Not only does BCC keep recipients' e-mail addresses private, but it prevents them from receiving unwanted messages in response to the initial one.
When writing any sort of business e-mail, DO be selective with using text shorthand. Examples such as IDK (I don't know), LMK (let me know), B4 (before), OMG (oh my god), and LOL (laughing out loud) should probably be avoided in professional e-mails, not only because they are, well, unprofessional, but also due to the fact that not everyone knows what all of those stand for (I myself had to look up LMK).
And if it wasn't already obvious, be sure to steer clear of LMAO (laughing my *** off), WTF (what the ****), and GTFO (get the **** out). However, expressions that were commonly used before e-mail became a main method of communication are probably acceptable. Abbreviations such as ASAP (as soon as possible), TBD (to be determined), and EOD (end of day) are all safe bets.
As for unwanted commercial e-mails, there are ways to avoid them. Foremost, when opening accounts anywhere online, DO pay close attention to all check boxes and attached fine print and deselect any offers that don't appeal to you (they're often preselected). Also, if you're currently receiving marketing e-mails that you consider spam, employ the opt-out link (it's usually in tiny print at the bottom of the message)--all such communications are required by law to offer this option. And by all means, DO file a complaint with the FTC if no such option exists.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so I invite you to share your own tips (and grievances) in the comment section below. As for me, I both love and hate e-mail. I can't imagine how I would get anything done without it. Then again, I'm not sure how I do get anything done with it constantly in my face, either. How about the rest of you?