Creating common courtesy on the internet

Etiquette has changed over the years, and recently, breaches of protocol have been occurring online more and more, as various aspects of our lives become web-based.

Woman on Laptop

Guidelines to help you think twice about what you write:

Another Miss Manners killer is email etiquette. We’ve lost the idea of how important correspondence can be. It’s quite different now. We can bang out a note in a couple of seconds and hit “send.” It was not that long ago when notes had to be thought out, hand-written and sent to the intended recipient. 

  1. Respond quickly

    It’s become quite common to leave people hanging – via email – for days, even weeks at a time. Everyone’s busy, but some people just seem to take the stress out on their email inbox, and decline to respond at all. If you’ve received an email that requires more attention than you have to give right now, send back a couple lines stating that. That way, the person at least knows you got the original correspondence. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always better to send a quick note back right when you get the message rather than waiting and waiting and waiting to come up with the perfect, well-thought out answer.

  2. Proper response allowance

    What do you do if you’re the person sending the email and haven’t heard from the recipient? It’s always convenient to lay out some sort of time frame in your original message. Incorporate a deadline that something needs to be dealt with, or mention a date at which you’ll get back to them if you haven’t heard anything. This communicates that you will re-contact the person after a certain amount of time passes. If you’re down to the wire, and you have their phone number, it’s okay to call. If the item is relatively urgent and a week has passed, feel free to send a reminder email. 

  3. Know your audience

    Rules on spelling and grammar have relaxed somewhat – and have become exponentially easier to deal with in the age of spell-check. But make sure you take into account who you’re emailing. If it’s a work-related message to someone who’s in a high position, give special attention to your spelling and sentence structure and don’t be too cutesy. For example, in certain situations, emoticons aren’t appropriate for work. Although there are offices where emoticons are appropriate. It’s important that you know the “e-environment” you’re a part of and write accordingly.

  4. The angry email

    We’ve all been there. We get a rude message and our first instinct is to hit “reply” and let them have it. An email confrontation is often easier than one done face-to-face. The best idea – although admittedly often not as fun – is to just sit on it for a few hours, or a day. Get it off your mind and return to the computer. After you’ve given it some thought, and it’s a bridge you don’t mind burning, go ahead and get it off your chest; just be as diplomatic as you can.


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