E-mail etiquette 101 June 13, 2011Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Tech tips.
I received an e-mail from a translation agency today informing me that they have made some recent changes to their Vendor Portal. They sent the e-mail to all the vendors in their database. Do you know how I know this? I then proceeded to get e-mails from their vendors from all over the world because they hit Reply All simply to say “thank you” to the person who sent the e-mail. I’m about ready to set up an e-mail filter to filter the replies to that subject line straight to the Trash. I don’t have the time or energy to delete hundreds of e-mails today (and since this is one of the Common Sense Advisory’s “top 20 translation agencies” there must be thousands of vendors…).
Sounds like some professionals need some schooling in e-mail etiquette. Here are my top 15 e-mail etiquette tips. If I missed one please feel free to share in the comments.
1. Use a subject line. I hate receiving e-mails with no subject line at all. I can’t believe people still do this.
2. Understand the difference between To:, CC: and BCC: and please use CC: and BCC: sparingly. And while I have your attention, don’t use Return Receipts on every single email. I decline them as a rule.
3. Do not hit Reply All unless you truly want to reply to every single person listed in the e-mail header. If one of the e-mail addresses is a generic one, do everyone a favor and delete it before you hit send.
4. Be polite at all times and be mindful of your tone. E-mail is a medium that too easily creates misunderstandings. Use sarcasm sparingly. If something gets “lost in translation,” you risk offending the other party. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the better.
5. Keep your e-mails brief and to the point. We all know people who write diatribes to listservs. I don’t know how they get any work done!
6. Reply in a timely manner. Even if it is a simple “thanks for your inquiry, but I am afraid I am booked up through the rest of the month.”
7. Don’t use e-mail to criticize others (or complain about a third party). Criticism is best conveyed in person or over the phone so that you can immediately mitigate any misunderstandings. Plus, you never know what might happen with your e-mail after you hit send and it arrives in the other person’s e-mail address. Worst case scenario: your e-mail will be forwarded to the third party in question. Ouch!
8. Don’t reply to an e-mail in anger. Write the e-mail and walk away from it for an hour or two (or a day or two) until you’ve had a chance to cool down. Better yet… vent your feelings by writing the e-mail and then hit Delete instead of Send.
9. Don’t forward chain letters. Nine times out of ten, the information is an urban legend. Just don’t do it! If in doubt, check it out at Snopes.com, a website devoted to tracking down and debunking urban legends and rumors.
10. Don’t write in ALL CAPS. This is the digital equivalent of shouting. No one likes to be shouted at.
11. Include your full name and contact information in your e-mail signature, but keep it to 4-5 lines. Also, if you are participating in a listserv please use your given first name so people know who they are dealing with. I have seen people sign their e-mails to listservs with an initial or, even worse, a pseudonym.
12. Don’t send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks. It seems self-evident, but surprisingly it happens.
13. Remember e-mails aren’t private. E-mails sent to a listserv go to everyone on the list. E-mail can be intercepted and read by just about anyone if they choose to do so. Think of e-mail as being the equivalent of sending a postcard through the mail.
14. Use your spellchecker. Nothing reflects on a language professional worse than an e-mail riddled with grammar errors and typos.
15. Reread your e-mail before sending it. Better yet, read it out loud. Make sure you are communicating clearly and that no words have been accidentally dropped in your zeal to write down your thoughts.
For more e-mail etiquette tips, check out 101 Email Etiquette Tips. Your clients and colleagues will thank you!