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Email Etiquette
by Sharon Jacobsen

Email opened up for a whole new form of communication. Almost like a letter, but lacking in the personal feel of a hand-written document, and transmitted in a matter of seconds. Just as there are certain "rules" to follow when writing a letter, so it is with email. 

It's said that communication between humans is approximately 90% body language, 8% tone of voice, and 2% what you say. With email, the first 98% is removed. Be aware of this when you write emails. Be very obvious with your meanings, since subtleties can often be lost or completely misunderstood. Remember this too, when reading others' emails. Their 
understanding of the language, or their haste in composing the email, may have given it a "tone" that can easily come across as being derogatory or aggressive. Reread it and see if you are simply misinterpreting the words. 

While you should maintain your personal style, there are a few points you should keep in mind...

Don't overquote 
When you hit the reply button, the original message will be quoted in the new one. Leaving the entire message intact makes for unnecessarily large mails. Only quote the portions that are relevant to your reply.

Emails are private documents and should therefore be treated as such. Information received via email should not be spread without the consent of the author. If somebody wrote you a letter, you wouldn't just send it on to your friends and 
colleagues would you? Or post the content in a discussion forum or newsgroup? Don't do it with email either.

Although email is generally more informal than the written letter, remain respectful when mailing somebody you don't know well. Don't use short versions of names. If the mail is signed "Susan", don't reply with "Hi Sue". Some people miss out the salutations, and just sign their mails with a simple "Tina". Although informal, "Regards, Tina" would still 
comes across better.

Wasting Space
From one extreme to the other, there are those with eternally long signatures which are added to the bottom of every mail they send. Look at the example below: 

Hi Jane

Thanks for the mail. I'll call you tomorrow. 

Tina Nobody
Department Manager
Nobody Ltd., London 
Contact us for all your stationary needs

Is it really necessary with this long signature on a short, informal mail? There's more signature than message. Tina has 
obviously had former contact with Jane, and therefore Jane no doubt already knows where Tina works, what her position is, etc etc. She also knows that this is the place to go to cover her stationary needs. 

Some signatures are worse than this. They include a "daily thought", ASCII art designs and kinds of weird and wonderful 
things. Keep your signatures short. Include only the information you NEED to include. Most email programmes allow 
for a choice of signatures. You could have one for the initial contact (something like the one in the above example) and a 
couple for more informal contact.

Carbon Copies
If you are sending an email to a large group of people, avoid using the "CC" field of your email programme. If you use this, everybody who receives the mail will be able to see the email addresses of everybody else it has gone to. Email addresses are personal and private. Only the owner of the address should decide who is to have access to their address. Use "BCC" (Blind Carbon Copy) instead. This way, each recipient will only be able to see their own email address.

HTML Mail 
Unless you know that the recipient has an email programme capable of reading HTML (Rich Text), don't use it. Stick to 
plain text or you could risk your message becoming an unreadable mess.

Slow Down 
Email has a feel of immediacy about it. Because of this, a lot of people are hasty when writing or replying to email. This is 
fine when it's just a short, informal mail to say "See you tomorrow", but if you're upset, angry or trying to put an 
important point across, the ease of pressing the send button can get you into trouble. Re-read your mail, edit when 
necessary, then re-read it again. The Internet as a whole tends to stress people, you have a feeling that everything should 
happen quickly. Don't let it stress you. A few more minutes aren't going to hurt you, but being too hasty may lead to 
unwanted consequences.

Unless you need to capitalise a particular word to stress a point, capitals, other than where grammatically correct, should 
be avoided at all costs. On the net (and the net includes email), capitals are considered to be SHOUTING. Do you really want to should at everybody you come into contact with?

Small "faces" made with the characters on your keyboard. Used in email, they can help you "show" the tone in which you are saying something. They can be helpful, but don't smother your mails with them. Here are a few of the most common emoticons (otherwise known as smileys).

:-) Smiling 
:-( Sad 
;-) Winking/Joking 
:-0 Surprised 

Never, ever spam! Don't send out unsolicited email. In the worst instance you can be banned by your ISP for spamming (most ISP's support an anti-spam policy). Few of us like receiving "junk mail", whether through the door or on the net, 
and although email may seem like an easy way of reaching a huge audience, if they haven't asked for it, don't send it!

Enjoy the new possibilities that email has opened up for us.  Make new friends, stay in touch, and have information sent to you quickly and efficiently. Use it, but don't abuse it! 

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Sharon Jacobsen is founder/administrator of  ( ), a web service designed to help women meet other women for platonic friendships in their local area of the UK. Having grown up in East London, Sharon moved to Norway at the age of 19, where she remained until 1998. She now lives in Cheshire with her partner and two of her three children. Contact Sharon on: s.jacobsen@friendsyourway

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