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E-Mail Etiquette Tips

"Virtual Interference" is a term used to describe the misunderstandings that can arise when coworkers communicate via electronic means. As we know, the usual body language and vocal cues that aid face-to-face communication are absent in an e-mail or Instant Message (IM) exchange. The etiquette tips are from the Yale University Library's Training & Staff Development web page (www.library.yale.edu/training/netiquette), and are meant to help coworkers ward off e-communications problems.

  1. An e-mail or IM should be accurate, clear, concise, and courteous. Consider your audience, and before hitting the send button, proof the text for anything that could be misinterpreted by, or antagonistic to, the recipient(s).

  2. Don't use all capital letters. This is more often than not interpreted as SHOUTING.

  3. When in doubt about whether you can convey a matter accurately via electronic means, don't. Arrange to speak to the colleague.

  4. Avoid expressions of extreme emotion in your e-communications. Also known as "flaming," nasty e-communications between colleagues can only result in alienation and loss of productivity.

  5. If you receive an e-mail or IM that upsets or confuses you, do not respond immediately. Remember that your interpretation of the tone or meaning of the e-mail may not coincide with the sender's intentions. Read it again. Reassess. Avoid the temptation of sending a too-hasty (and not necessarily thoughtful) response.

  6. A personal conversation can do wonders for alleviating the tension and misunderstandings that may build up in an e-mail or IM exchange. Contact the sender of an e-mail that upsets or confuses you by phone, or approach them for a face-to-face discussion. Avoid starting a cycle of "send" and "reply" in which you are both aggravated.

  7. Don't ignore or forget to respond to an e-communication. This undermines work relationships and productivity.

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