How many digital faux pas are you committing without realising it asks River Cottage's Jemma Moran?
Today, an estimated 100 billion emails will be sent and received across the world. How many of those will you be responsible for and will you give them the care and attention they deserve?The emails you send (especially at work) can say a lot about you, so follow these rules and make sure your digital reputation remains intact.
Salutations to you, good sir/madam!
Think about what is appropriate for the subject and the recipient. You wouldn't start a formal business letter with 'Hiya!'. If you don't know the person very well or it's someone high up in your organisation, 'Dear so-and-so' will normally suffice. I always think that launching straight in with someone's first name (with no Hello or Dear) is a bit abrupt but older people or senior colleagues often do this - so just reciprocate in kind.
Over and out
How do you normally sign off your electronic missives? I favour 'best wishes' - because it's polite and versatile. Weird and wonderful parting shots might just overshadow the main body of your message, after all that will be the last thing the reader will see. I've received emails that have ended with; 'Warmth', 'Big love', 'VB' (very best?) and 'thx'. Of course, if you know the reader really well it might be hilarious to sign off with 'See you in hell' - just don't copy in your CEO.
Never use TXT SPK
Abbreviating language tells your reader that you've rushed the job and you think so little of them that you couldn't even spare a few seconds to type the extra characters. Don't run the risk of irritating and even confusing your recipient.
Sharing an email account
I'm probably preaching to the converted here, you must be pretty intelligent because you're reading Country Calling, but believe it or not some people do share email addresses. Think long and hard about sharing one with your significant other - what sort of message does firstname.lastname@example.org send out? If you ask me it says you're the sort of person that is either too lazy (or worse, too stupid) to work out how to use an email account for yourself or you don't see yourself as an independent individual that can stand on their own two feet without the help of their spouse. Either way, it's a bad look. Plus, it's just confusing - recipients might be unsure as to who is actually getting in contact with them and if you both access the account, how will you buy a present for the other online without them knowing?
An ex-colleague of mine once sent an email with an attachment of 22MB... to theentirecompany. It jammed inboxes and left him looking a little silly. Save face and use cloud-based file transfer services such as DropBox or WeTransfer for anything over 5MB (you might get away with more, but why risk it?).
Before you copy in half your office, really think about who it's necessary to send to. I can often get well over 100 emails a day, so when I get copied into an email thread (that goes back and forth and round the houses) I get a bit annoyed if it's not relevant to me. According to Debrett's, it's good etiquette to list those you need to put in the 'cc' line in order of seniority - a nice idea but one that is probably rarely observed.
Would a phone call suffice?
I've said it before and I'll say it again, in this digital age, it's really nice to receive a phone call or even the sporadic written note. On the rare occasion that I receive a hand-written card or letter in the post at work it really makes my day. And if the person you're emailing is within the company, could you just go and speak to them in person?
And there you have it, a few hints and tips to keep your emails as efficient and polite as possible.