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Minding your e-manners: Tips for smarter e-mailing

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012, at 7:09 p.m.

Managing your e-mail extends beyond cleaning out your inbox.

Peter Post, a director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt., offers these pointers for safer, smarter e-mailing.

•  Follow the bulletin board rule. “Don’t put anything in an e-mail you wouldn’t put on a bulletin board to read,” Post said. An e-mail should be treated as a public document, he said, adding, “If it’s something private, you shouldn’t put it in an e-mail.”

•  Stick to the facts. Post said e-mails should address the classic questions: Who, what, when and where. Be careful about the “why,” however, because that could lead into opinion or might be misinterpreted.

•  Watch the tone. E-mail is not the same as a face-to-face or telephone exchange. There are no visual or aural yardsticks to determine what’s meant. Post said a good trick is to listen to how your e-mail sounds.

“When you are writing that difficult e-mail, take the time to read it aloud,” he said. “You’ll hear the tone in your voice.”

And a few tips from Laura Stack of the Productivity Pro, writing on Microsoft’s website:

•  Use sentence case. Typing everything in capital letters is the e-mail equivalent of shouting.

•  Don’t use e-mail as an excuse to avoid personal contact. E-mail is not appropriate when sending confusing or emotional messages, to avoid an uncomfortable situation or to cover up a mistake.

•  Informal is OK, sloppy is not. Your e-mail message reflects you, so spelling, grammar and punctuation rules apply.

•  Clarity counts in the subject field. Indicate the content and purpose of your e-mail. Leaving it blank, or writing “Hi!” is confusing to the recipient and can get lost in a crowded inbox.

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