Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pedro's Rules of Email Etiquette (2013 edition)

This is an update to an article I wrote a couple of years ago, I thought it was time for a refresher.

Pedro's Rules of Business Email:

1. Must follow the same standards in place for WRITTEN communications.

2. Spell check the damn thing, please. It is embarrassing to all parties when an email has unnecessary typos.

3. Be concise. Be specific. Write in full sentences.

4. Check your tone.

5. Check the stupid carbon copy and blind copy lists! Then do it again!

6. If you are complaining about an error, make sure the error isn't yours. It makes you look stupid and somebody will eventually dig out the email to use it against you.

7. Provide relevant information. If you are sending a screen capture, also send the URL of the page, so others can replicate it.

8. Don't hit the send button if you are upset. I am sure 99.99% of all email clients in use have a draft feature.

9. Don't hey people, it's rude. Don't dude people, it's stupid. 

10. Always use a signature block with your full name, title, company, phone/fax, etc. whenever you contact somebody outside of your organization for the first time. NO EXCUSES! Once you reply back and forth within the same discussion thread, it is OK to skip it. But that very first message MUST have a signature block.

11. Don't curse in external emails, it's childish, stupid, rude and unprofessional. And emails can be subpoenaed for legal proceedings. 

12. Check rule #5 if you are cursing in an email. Then do it again. 

13. Don't be stupid/lazy with attachments. Give them real names, not document.doc or document.pdf. If it is big enough, don't email the document, put it in a web folder and email instructions on how to download. 

14. Don't break the thread. Once a thread starts, breaking the tread makes it much harder to research issues at a later date.

15. Don't cut people off a thread unless you have a very good reason. The third time I add my project manager and my business manager to the stupid thread, I am hinting at you to stop deleting them, so please stop it. Don't purposely go around people through email, it'll bite you in the ass. If you really have to be so self-destructive that you need to go around people, talk to them in person, then it is your word against theirs. 

16. No SMS notation, sorry.

17. Be careful with acronyms with outside recipients, they may not have a clue what you are talking about.

18. Even if you don't need to reply in length, acknowledge receipt. This allows the sender to know who read what.

19. Always make sure your emails have a proper subject line that makes sense. Don't type the whole email into the subject line. Don't use PLEASE HELP as your subject in every stupid email. Yes, people still do it in business emails.

Pedro's Rule of Personal Email:

1. Rules #2, #4, #5, #8, #13, #17 should apply for most cases.

2. Make sure that you are not copying the same person with multiple addresses. Don't be lazy maintaining your address book, as the same people email from new addresses, ask them for their preferred address and stick to it. Almost all address books have a de-dup function to allow you to find duplicates so they can be merged.