Elsewhere in this book we talk about netiquette relating to a variety of online activities. In this section we want to talk about netiquette as it relates to email. Specifically we’ll address general email netiquette, email at work, email forwarding, and email flaming.

The following general rules of email netiquette reflect the best advice I can come up with, culled from multiple sources as well as my own experience as an email user for the past 30 years.

  • Do not write in caps. WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS YELLING! See how that looks like yelling? Second, it makes you look like you’re trapped in the 1970s with nothing but a teletype to print on.
  • Despite the ease of attaching endless punctuation to your emails, resist the urge to do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You know what I mean???!!!!!?!???!???!??!! Nothing screams “Amateur!!!!” like overly enthusiastic punctuation.
  • Remember that the emails you send are a reflection of yourself and create an impression in the minds of the people who read them. The fonts you choose, the signature you use, your language, spelling, etc., all reflect on you and help create an impression.
  • Double check who you’re sending to. Mistakes get made and it’s potentially embarrassing to send emails to unintended recipients.
  • Replying to sender and hitting “Reply All” are different things. Both have their place, but make sure the one you choose is the one you mean to choose.
  • When sending an email to a long list of recipients, consider putting all of the emails into the BCC field. Doing so causes all the email addresses to be hidden from the other recipients. There are a number of situations in which revealing your entire mailing list to others is a very bad thing.
  • Be careful with emoticons. Used properly, they can enhance your communication by reflecting emotion. Used improperly, they can make your emails look less than professional or contribute an air of immaturity to your emails.
  • It’s easy to ramble when writing an email. Edit your email before sending and figure out if you can deliver your message more directly with less overhead (i.e., fewer words).
  • Use clear subject lines. Subject lines help people to prioritize and organize their emails. It’s bad netiquette to send an email without a subject.
  • Avoid responding in haste to an emotional email exchange. You can’t take the email back once you send it.
  • Before sending any email, ask yourself how you’d feel if this email were read in public, published in the paper, or disclosed in a court case, because all of those things have happened to emails in the past.

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