20 Netiquette Tips For Using Email to Develop and Sustain Business & Personal Relationships

75% of adults use email daily… 25.2 billion business email messages are exchanged daily. It could be the most powerful method for communicating and developing relationships since the telephone.

It has the immediacy of a conversation, but is totally devoid of body language. Therein lies the potential for huge misunderstandings and harm. Here are 20 tips for using email as a way of developing or sustaining relationships when you want to persuade or influence someone.

  1. Always start emails with “Hello,” “Hi,” whatever works for you, followed by a sentence or two of chit-chat. Exactly the way you make a phone call.
  2. Proofread. Poor writing is equivalent to someone speaking with spinach stuck between their teeth. Listeners are distracted by the spinach… readers are distracted by your typos.
  3. Never type in all caps. This is considered YELLING! or SCREAMING!
  4. Always use a Subject line, and make it meaningful. Then keep to the subject. If you need to change the subject, send a separate message.
  5. Always capitalize sentences and use punctuation with business acquaintances to build your relationship and credibility. (Family and friends are different – they’ll not be quite so insulted that you didn’t take the time to communicate properly with them.)
  6. When replying, include only the minimum you need from the original message. Don’t just hit REPLY, especially when it’s an ongoing conversation and you have copies of the last 3-6 emails going back and forth.
  7. Send plain text – forget bolding or pretty colours, unless you’re familiar with the recipient’s technology. Older email systems can’t read them and you will look tacky.
  8. Never send unsolicited email to anyone, for any reason.
  9. Particularly in an influence situation, always end emails with “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” “Cheers” – whatever works for you. Type unto those as you would have them type unto you.
  10. When sending the same email to a group, list all recipients’ email addresses in the BCC field if you do not wish other recipients to have the addresses. Email addresses are like phone numbers – you should have permission to publish them.
  11. Do not forward jokes (only Newbie’s do this). Delete.
  12. Before sending large files (anything over 100,000 bytes), always compress/zip first, and ask permission to send. Based on connection speed, some systems could take 30 minutes or more to open large files.
  13. Don’t forward virus warnings. Newbies again. They’re almost always hoaxes. Delete. However, DO warn recipients if you know you have a virus that you may have passed on.
  14. Never send email with language that could be construed as crude, abusive, threatening or comments that would be offensive based on race, religion or sexual orientation. Due to the lack of non-verbal clues, the recipient will take the words you type at face value. Use emoticons if you are joking (there are web sites all over the internet where you can find lists of these) so you can communicate your emotions without being insulting or obnoxious.
  15. Don’t fall for “trolls.” Trollers send obviously offensive comments just to instigate a fight. Delete. If you do get harassed or threatened, do not hesitate to send a copy of the offending email to the sender’s ISP.
  16. Don’t fall for “flamers.” Treat them as you would road rage. Otherwise mild-manner drivers utter expletives or make obscene gestures when something doesn’t go their way in traffic. Similarly, some people who wouldn’t dream of being rude to others at work think nothing of firing off a “flame” via electronic mail. If you respond with another flame, you could get caught in a flame war. If you must respond, fight flame with courtesy. Never send anything that you would not want to appear on the front page of your city’s largest newspaper.
  17. Always use a “signature” if possible (a small block of text appended to the end of your messages, containing your contact information). Keep it short, 4-7 lines.
  18. Avoid requesting delivery receipts. This almost always annoys the recipient before they even read the message. Besides, it usually doesn’t work because of blocking functions. If you want to know, ask the recipient to let you know if it was received.
  19. Be careful with your address book. It’s easy to accidentally send a message to the wrong person. Could be embarrassing.
  20. Remember that all email can be archived and, under certain circumstances, may not be secure. All archived email can be subpoenaed and made public via a court order. Email sent at work belongs to the company (Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 1986) and 20% of U.S. businesses randomly check employee mail. Monitoring by the company is legal and you should have no expectation of privacy. If you have a private email address that also gets used for business, expect no privacy there either.

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