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  • Welcome to the Email Etiquette Workshop. This presentation was designed in response to the growing popularity of email and the subsequent need for information on how to craft appropriate email messages, send resumes and cover letters via email, communicate with colleagues and classmates, and how to participate in electronic mailing lists. Anyone who uses email (regardless of regularity or purpose) will find this workshop to be useful. This presentation includes explanations and activities to include audience participation. Created by Stephanie Williams Hughes with contributions from Angela Laflen. © Purdue University Writing Lab 2001, 2002 Contributions from the following sources: Angell, David, and Heslop, Brent. The Elements of Email Style: Communicate Effectively via Electronic Mail. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994. Bailey, Jr., Edward P. The Plain English Approach to Business Writing. New York: University Press, 1990. Caudron, Shari. “Virtual Manners.” Workforce 79.2 (2000): 31-34. An asterisk (*) along with the authors names are printed on the slides to indicate that the information on the slide was taken from that particular source.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation : Email has become very prevalent in most people’s lives and many use it to cheaply and quickly communicate with friends, family, and co-workers. Although this technology is available to everyone, and most people are accustomed to using email, people still are not very savvy when it comes to understanding how email functions in a relationship both personally and professionally. How we interpret email : While most people are aware that the computer is not a person and that emails do not have a character of their own, many people still react to them as though they do. Readers assign meaning to everything that people write and tend to perceive it as concrete because it is in black and white (or whatever color you may choose). This response, coupled with a lack of nonverbal cues, poses a serious challenge for email writers. It is easy for emails to be misinterpreted because people write as though they are having a conversation; however, the receiver does not read that way. Ask the audience: How many times have you received an email and felt a little put off by the message even though it was from a good friend? Have you ever sent an email that upset or confused someone? What was it like to be in that situation and what did you do to clear up the misunderstanding? It is because of these uncomfortable situations that some ground rules on email etiquette were established and why email writers should be mindful of them.
  • Explanation: This slide provides an overview of the entire workshop. Workshop participants will benefit from information on the general format of email writing, content development, and tips on how to use electronic mailing lists.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: Many complain that writers of email do not take the time to be personable. One way to remedy this and extend good will toward the reader is to add a salutation for each new subject. “Dear,” “Hello,” and “Hi” are all acceptable greetings. If a writer is communicating with someone about the same subject (for example, authorization for overtime) then it is considered acceptable to just begin the email with the first sentence. *Caudron Length: A number of experts have a wide range of opinions on how lengthy an email should be. Some say that it does not matter and others say that an email should be as long as the text box without scrolling. Both perspectives appear to be correct. In general emails should be short and to the point. However, many companies are moving to paperless memos and other written transactions, thereby requiring that emails be longer. This workshop is going to cover how to effectively write a long email on slide #11 titled “When Your Message is Long.” Time: It is considered rude not to respond to an email as soon as possible. Writers should strive to respond to emails as quickly as they would a phone message, which tends to be immediately. If the email requires a longer message than the writer is able to provide at that moment, it is considered proper etiquette to let the sender know that the message was received and that the writer is planning to respond as soon as time permits. *Caudron Grammar and Punctuation: For the professional work world it is imperative that writers use capitalization, grammar, and other traditional ways of writing to include neutral fonts. Plain Text vs. HTML: Not all emails are formatted to read html. It is best to send everything in plain text unless the writer knows for certain that the person he or she is writing can read html.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Alert: People may become confused about how to accomplish this. Most emails will generally account for this now. Directions for Netscape email users: Click on the “Edit” menu on the task bar. Click on the “preferences” option. Choose the “Mail & Newsgroups” option. Click on the “Messages” option. Look to the right of the menu and focus on the “message wrapping” section. Be sure the number of characters selected for outgoing messages is between 70-80 characters. Directions for Non-Netscape email users: Writers should consult their instructional booklet or click on “help” in their email session to determine how to set their preferences. Most emails have a preferences option for their email. Reminder: If the message is likely to be forwarded it should be less than 60 characters so that it will work with anyone’s email software.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: This is one of many ways to organize information within an email document. It’s an effective way to make the information flow more logically and it helps the reader to know the proper order of the information in the email in a very clear and concise way. *Angell and Heslop
  • Explanation: The main point of this slide is to help participates understand the importance of tone. These are ways to create a document that sounds friendly and “nonverbally” open. While it is important to follow rules of punctuation and grammar in email, using contractions can create a conversational style that isn’t intimidating. Remind students that tone is dependent on audience -- an email to a co-worker might have a substantially different tone than email to a boss. Ask them to think about situations and determine appropriate tones for them. *Angell and Heslop
  • Explanation: Many users of email complain a great deal about long address lists because they find it rude. Web and Internet experts tend to agree that scrolling is perceived by users to be an imposition. In other words they generally feel put upon when they are required to scroll too much. It is proper etiquette to minimize required scrolling as much as possible. Suggestions: Rather than typing in numerous email addresses in the to: line, create mailing list groups so that there is only one address. It is okay to have three mailing groups included but writers should not include any more than that. How do I set up a list? Many email composers have address functions that allow them to set up addresses for groups and individuals. Generally, writers will find these functions in the “address book” component of their email. If a writer is sending out lists that have more than twenty people it is a good idea to check with the IT (technology staff) staff in his or her office to assist with setting up group lists.
  • Explanation: Attachments can sometimes cause more headaches than help, and it can be difficult for the recipient(s) to figure out why they are unable to download an attachment. One way to help is to provide all of the important information about the file so that the recipient can trouble shoot to something more serious if there is a problem other than incompatibility. Also, due to viruses that spread via e-mail attachments, it’s important that the recipient know that the sender meant for an attachment to be included with the message, and what kind of attachment it is, since opening unknown attachments could cause serious damage to the recipient’s system and spread viruses further. Always check any attachments you are going to send for viruses, and never open unknown attachments!
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: The most important concept about electronic mailing lists is that they are conversations, but PUBLIC conversations. When writers respond to an e-list they should be sure to check who the message is going to. If you have a personal concern or message then respond to someone privately on the list or in person.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Elevator Summary: Business experts often refer to this kind of summary either as an elevator summary or an executive summary. Either terminology is correct. An elevator summary is a summary that can be given to a colleague or employer in the short time it takes to get from the ground floor to the third floor on an elevator. It has the bare essentials of the message. *Angell and Heslop Why a summary? We all know what it is like to inundated with email, so much so that is difficult to figure out what emails have priority over others. If there is a brief summary at the top readers can make a decision about whether to save the email for later or finish it at that time. The table of contents: The table of contents is a very friendly gesture toward readers when they are required to read long messages. It allows them to skip to the sections of the email that apply to them and avoid those areas that do not. Other explanations : If the reader needs to respond immediately to the email then that should be conveyed in the first paragraph; otherwise, that message may be overlooked and the writer will not receive the response as quickly as one is needed.
  • Elevator summary activated by mouse-click, table of contents loads automatically Sample : This slide shows examples of the elevator summary and the table of contents. *Angell and Heslop
  • Explanation : Many companies, in an effort to save on paper, are sending vital information through email about their conferences, corporate orientations, and new policies and procedures. Most likely, new employees will be easily frustrated and confused, so providing information about orientations should be detailed and organized. The more information that is included in the email the less likely the composer will have to fax or mail a document. The same is true for meetings and for policy changes.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: There is a myth that continues to circulate that the more a person stalls in getting bad news out the better the recipient will feel about it because he or she will be prepared. THIS IS NOT TRUE. In fact, stalling or beating around the bush only leads to reader frustration and may not serve the messenger well if he or she is writing the email to their boss. It is better to deliver bad news up front in the elevator summary.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: This slide provides examples of poor choices for prioritizing information and shows ways to construct messages that are not blaming or ambiguous. The term “weasel words” was coined by Angell and Heslop to describe words that appear cowardly, ambiguous, or indirect in an effort to ward off or stall potentially negative repercussions.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: When writing a complaint via email the writer should provide a very clear picture for the recipient mainly because there is a tremendous amount of room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding. It is important that the writer provide a context and state clearly what the problem is and how he or she would like to see the problem resolved. Reminder: Remind the participants that if the problem is urgent, they should indicate that in their elevator summary and let the recipient know they need a response as soon as possible.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: These are the first two steps one can take in writing a complaint. It is important for the writer to provide a context for his or her audience and to show the audience that he or she has taken all the necessary and required steps to resolve it. When a person takes the time to show that she or he is contributing to the solution the message takes on a positive tone that is generally received with greater ease and optimism by the audience.
  • Explanation: Everyone does not agrees on what is considered to be a “problem.” When writers clearly state what they perceive to be troublesome it reduces the possibility of disagreement between them and their audience. Labeling something as a “problem” is not sufficient enough to motivate others to act. The problem must be clearly defined in a way that can foster solutions.
  • Explanation: Most often when people receive complaints the natural reaction is to ask “so how does this involve me?” It is vital that writers prescribe courses of action to motivate their audience. First, writers should concede that they may have overlooked an option; perhaps there are other ways to resolve the problem without calling meetings and sending out intimidating memos. Second, writers should show how they are willing to participate in the solution by suggesting their willingness to meet with a third party, the party in question, or others. This shows that writers have good will toward the organization.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: One of the quickest ways to frustrate someone is to surprise him or her by either copying a complaint to both him or her and their boss (skipping over the chain of command) or waiting until the end of the day to introduce a problem. This is likely to compromise the complaint’s effectiveness and alienate the writer from his or her audience. Once the audience is alienated, co-workers and employers may not express any empathy toward the writer, his or her concerns may not be addressed in a timely manner, the message may be ignored, or the writer may receive a flippant email. Rather than take readers by surprise writers should address concerns as soon as possible and with as much decorum and diplomacy as possible.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: Professors and TAs find themselves inundated with email from their department and from their students. Students who are exercising appropriate netiquette understand that they should respect the boundaries set by their teachers. Some professors will tell the students how often they check their email and let them know the best way a student can communicate with them outside of the classroom. If they do not, it is acceptable to approach the teacher and clarify that point. Some students will choose email as a forum for venting their frustrations about the class as a way to avoid speaking directly with the professor. In certain cases this may be acceptable if written with propriety. It is expected that some students are shy. However, it is critical to follow the steps laid out in this presentation on writing sensitive documents. Also, students in the audience should be reminded that they need to contact their teachers as soon as they have a concern, not later. Reminder: It is important to remind the participants of the workshop that they should always consider their situation and the relationship they have with their instructor or professor. There are always exceptions to the rules as some professors prefer to deal with email and others not. Students should consider writing an email generalizing their concerns and then if need be, make an appointment to see the professor.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: Every professor and instructor has his or her own way of using email in the classroom. Adherence to your preferences is most likely to occur when you explicitly state your policy to your students and/or include it in your syllabus. Do Not Want Emails? Then be sure to inform your students that you have chosen not to include your email address and that is not acceptable avenue to get a hold of you. Instead, offer them other avenues. Otherwise, students may seek out your email address in the campus directory. Subject Specifications: Some professors do not have mind discussing grades via email and others do. Some professors do not like to discuss class materials via email and others do. If you have certain preferences, be sure to let your students know what those are. Also be aware of your school’s policies regarding disclosure of grades or other sensitive information to students. Consent: Many times students will ask questions where the answer you give will benefit the entire class and not just them. Seek the consent of the student to let the class know that they brought up the concern or refer to the email without specifically mentioning the student who sent it. Just as professors do not like to be caught by surprise, neither do students.
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation : Many people become frustrated with a co-worker, boss, or office policy and have the need to vent that frustration. However, there are some serious problems with flaming and it should happen sparingly in emails. Activity: (read the following email to the audience) “I am so sick and tired of all the crap that goes on in this office. Judy is the most annoying person that I’ve ever known and she hardly ever gets her work done in a timely manner and I’m tired of watching her do nothing. Besides that, every time I try and get help Larry just acts like there isn’t a problem. I am SO CLOSE TO QUITTING! I swear that if someone says another thing to me I am out the door honestly. The procedures in here are only for certain people and the rest are favorites. As a matter of fact, I don’t even think this problem can be solved until Judy is fired.” Discussion: Have the audience think about the ramifications of sending this email. Who will be hurt? How? What could have been done by the writer earlier to avoid this build up of frustration? Might the writer have some legitimate concerns that are masked by his or her anger? What might be a better way to write about those concerns? *Angell and Heslop
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: It is easy for writers to let their guards down when communicating electronically because they are not actually getting immediate feedback. The nature of communication changes. Sometimes people tend to do and say things over email and on electronic mailing lists that they would never do in an office meeting or face to face with a co-worker. It is essential that the participants understand how unproductive flaming emails are and the snowball effect they can have in the office (because they can be forwarded or printed). Reminder: Do not use obscene or abusive language and do not flame in a public forum like a message group or electronic mailing list. *Angell and Heslop
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: If a writer is compelled to flame and must blow off some steam then he or she must take the time to forewarn the receiver by letting them know which part of the email is the venting portion. Reminder: Email is public so remind the participants that they do not want to send something that may come back to haunt them. Also remember that even though writers may take the precautions of using the flame format, they may still offend the reader. *Angell and Heslop
  • Mouse-click to activate text Explanation: When responding to a flame, the respondent must do his or her best to remain professional and neutral. Emails are infamous for creating misunderstandings. Try to be as clear as possible and as empathetic as possible. If none of the above tactics work then it is most appropriate to take this concern outside of the electronic sphere and into the traditional interpersonal (face to face) sphere. *Angell and Heslop
  • Explanation: Not all messages are best delivered via email. There are many instances when one should stop and say, “It’s time to meet or talk in person because we’ve gotten as far as we can through email.” Generally, most people are agreeable to talking in person. Reminder: Because of the facelessness of email there are a number of misunderstandings and misperceptions that can occur.
  • Key Concept: Purdue’s Writing Lab offers a variety of professional writing services. Purdue students can schedule one-on-one tutoring sessions to work with specially trained tutors for any of their professional writing concerns. The Lab staff can also be reached via the Grammar Hotline or through email to answer brief questions. It is also a good idea to check out the Writing Lab web site, which offers a variety of online handouts and workshops related to audience, tone, and organization. Reminder: The tutors at the Writing Lab are not able to help with technical problems students have with their email preferences and accounts. They should contact their email service provider for further assistance.

Email etiquette2821 Email etiquette2821 Presentation Transcript

  • Email Etiquette Workshop Brought to you by the Purdue University Writing Lab
  • Why is email etiquette important?
    • We all interact with the printed word as though it has a personality and that personality makes positive and negative impressions upon us.
    • Without immediate feedback your document can easily be misinterpreted by your reader, so it is crucial that you follow the basic rules of etiquette to construct an appropriate tone.
  • The elements of email etiquette
    • General format
    • Writing long messages
    • Attachments
    • The curse of surprises
    • Flaming
    • Delivering information
    • Delivering bad news
    • Electronic Mailing Lists
  • General Format: The Basics
    • Write a salutation for each new subject email.
    • Try to keep the email brief (one screen length).
    • Return emails within the same time you would a phone call.
    • Check for punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors
    • Use caps when appropriate.
    • Format your email for plain text rather than HTML.
    • Use a font that has a professional or neutral look.
  • General Format: Character Spacing
    • Try to keep your line length at 80 characters or less.
    • If your message is likely to be forwarded, keep it to 60 characters or less.
    • Set your email preferences to automatically wrap outgoing plain text messages.
  • General Format: Lists and Bullets
    • When you are writing directions or want to emphasize important points, number your directions or bullet your main points.
    • For example,
    • Place the paper in drawer A.
    • Click the green “start” button.
    • Another example,
    • Improve customer satisfaction.
    • Empower employees.
  • General Format: Tone
    • Write in a positive tone
    • “ When you complete the report.” instead of “If you complete the report.”
    • Avoid negative words that begin with “un, non, ex” or that end with “less” (useless, non-existent, ex-employee, undecided).
    • Use smiles  , winks ;), and other graphical symbols only when appropriate .
    • Use contractions to add a friendly tone.
    • (don’t, won’t, can’t).
  • General Format: Addresses
    • Avoid sending emails to more than four addresses at once.
    • Instead, create a mailing list so that readers do not have to scroll too much before getting to the actual message.
    • To: [email_address]
  • Attachments
    • When you are sending an attachment tell your respondent what the name of the file is, what program it is saved in, and the version of the program.
    • “ This file is in MSWord 2000 under the name “LabFile.”
  • General Tips for Electronic Mailing Lists
    • Avoid discussing private concerns and issues.
    • It is okay to address someone directly on the list. Ex, “Hi Leslie, regarding your question”
    • Change the subject heading to match the content of your message.
    • When conflict arises on the list speak in person with the one with whom you are in conflict.
  • When your message is long
    • Create an “elevator” summary.
    • Provide a table of contents on the first screen of your email.
    • If you require a response from the reader then be sure to request that response in the first paragraph of your email.
    • Create headings for each major section.
  • Elevator Summary and Table of Contents
    • An elevator summary should have all the main components of the email.
    • “ Our profit margin for the last quarter went down 5%. As a result I am proposing budget adjustment for the following areas…”
    • Table of contents
    • “ This email contains
    • A. Budget projections for the last quarter
    • B. Actual performance for the last quarter
    • C. Adjustment proposal
    • D. Projected profitability”
  • Delivering Information About Meetings, Orientations, Processes
    • Include an elevator summary and table of contents with headings.
    • Provide as much information as possible.
    • Offer the reader an opportunity to receive the information via mail if the email is too confusing.
  • Delivering Bad News
    • Deliver the news up front.
    • Avoid blaming statements.
    • Avoid hedging words or words that sound ambiguous.
    • Maintain a positive resolve.
  • Delivering Bad News
    • Deliver the news up front:
    • “ We are unable to order new computers this quarter due to budget cuts.”
    • Avoid blaming:
    • “ I think it will be hard to recover from this, but what can I do to help?”
    • Avoid using “weasel words” or hedging:
    • “ Our pricing structure is outdated.”
    • More examples of hedging are:
    • Intents and purposes
    • Possibly, most likely
    • Perhaps, maybe
  • Writing a complaint
    • You should briefly state the history of the problem to provide context for your reader.
    • Explain the attempts you made previously to resolve the problem.
    • Show why it is critical for the problem to be resolved by your reader.
    • Offer suggestions on ways you think it can be resolved or how you are willing to help in the matter.
  • Writing a complaint
    • Briefly state the history:
    • “ The current way we choose officers for our organization is not democratic. As a result, we have a popularity contest that does not always get us the best candidates.”
    • Show attempts made by you thus far to resolve the issue:
    • “ I have offered two alternatives for officer selection that still involves the votes of the members but both have been rejected by the executive board.”
  • Writing a complaint
    • Show why it is important for your reader to get involved:
    • “ This is a problem for two reasons. First, I am concerned that the executive board no longer protects the interests of the organization and that their actions are not in keeping with the constitution of the organization.
    • Second, there have been a number of complaints from the members who feel that their concerns and preferences are not being addressed by the executive board, which decreases morale and productivity.”
  • Writing a complaint
    • Ask for help and offer a resolution:
    • “ Please let me know what other options I may have overlooked. I am willing to meet with the department head and the executive board to seek out a solution that is fair to the members and is good for the business of the organization . ”
  • Do not take your reader by surprise or press them to the wall
    • Do not wait until the end of the day to introduce a problem or concern via memo or email.
    • Avoid writing a litany of concerns that you have been harboring for a long period of time.
  • Taking Professors and TAs By Surprise
    • Be sure you have permission to communicate with your professors via email.
    • Complaints about grades and projects should generally be discussed in person.
    • Post your concerns or questions in a timely manner.
  • If you are a professor or instructor
    • Be clear with your students about whether they can contact you via email.
    • Tell them what kinds of subjects you are willing to deal with via email in case you have some restrictions.
    • If you have cut off times for when you will respond to email, inform your students about those times.
    • Seek consent from students before discussing their emails in the classroom.
  • Flaming in emails
    • Flaming is a virtual term for venting or sending inflammatory messages in email.
    • Avoid flaming because it tends to create a great deal of conflict that spirals out of control.
    • Flame fights are the equivalent of food fights and tend to affect observers in a very negative way.
    • What you say cannot be taken back; it is in black and white.
  • Keep flaming under control
    • Before you send an email message, ask yourself, “would I say this to this person’s face?”
    • Calm down before responding to a message that offends you. Once you send the message it is gone.
    • Read your message twice before you send it and assume that you may be misinterpreted when proofreading.
  • When you need to flame
    • There are times when you may need to blow off some steam.
    • Remember your audience and your situation before sending the email.
    • Here’s a way to flame:
    • Flame On
    • Your message
    • Flame Off
  • Responding to a flame
    • Empathize with the sender’s frustration and tell them they are right if that is true
    • If you feel you are right, thank them for bringing the matter to your attention
    • Explain what led to the problem in question
    • Avoid getting bogged down by details and minor arguments
    • If you are aware that the situation is in the process of being resolved let the reader know at the top of the response
    • Apologize if necessary
  • When Email Won’t Work
    • There are times when you need to take your discussion out of the virtual world and make a phone call.
    • If things become very heated, a lot of misunderstanding occurs, or when you are delivering very delicate news then the best way is still face-to face.
  • For more information
    • Contact the Purdue University Writing Lab with questions about audience and organization in writing email.
      • Drop In: Heavilon 226
      • Call: 43723
      • Email:
      • [email_address]
      • On the web: http://owl.english.purdue.edu