e M A I L   E T I Q U E T T E
Etiquette Matters Miss Manners hasn't gotten around to writing a book on excruciatingly correct use of e-mail (also spelled E-mail or eMail), so here are a few tips and observations to speed you on your way to peaceful co-existence with all those other drivers on the information superhighway.
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Internal Use E-mail is a powerful communications tool at SFNB. It provides a way to contact one or many with precise descriptions and even evidence via enclosed files. It has an audit trail with accumulated comments, and you can easily print a written record of an exchange. It is Asynchronous, meaning you don't have to reply at the time the mail is recieved, and it can even be entertaining if written with humor.
  • Addresses
    Internal addresses can be truncated to the name before the @ in most cases; for instance, prcarter@s1.com becomes simply prcarter. Use commas to separate individuals when you send mail to more than one person.
    Addresses can be found on the intranet Employee Directory page or you can send mail to pre-defined lists of people via Mailing Lists.
  • cc:
    Means Carbon Copy, this address area is for people who may want to see your exchange (like your manager), and will appear in the header information on the receiving end (your recipients will know who is on the cc: list). Address formats are the same as the main address area.
  • bcc:
    Means BLIND carbon copy, this address area is for people who may want to see your exchange (like your manager) but remain UNKNOWN to the recipient, (your recipients will NOT know who is on the bcc: list). Address formats are the same as the main address area.
  • Subject:
    Please put something useful in here, like a 3 to 6 word summary of what's in the body, or a description of the enclosure.
    NON-BIZ: Use NON-BIZ to begin the subject of a non-business message, i.e., you've got tickets to sell, your child is selling cookies, when you're looking for bowling partners, etc.
  • Urgency:
    This is pretty obvious; most of your messages should be normal urgency, unless you have a really high opinion of yourself or it is a genuinely critical issue.
  • Attachments/Enclosures:
    You can attach files to e-mail. Do NOT attach LARGE files (larger than 500k) or you will crash the Mail system.
    If you need to send a large file, then either: A) place the file in a shared folder on your local drive and instruct the other person how to find it via e-mail, B) FTP the file, C) put the file on a disk and sneakernet that sucker.
    And, don't send anyone a file with a virus in it.
    If you are unsure whether the recipient can read a specific file type, try a test message or convert the file to a simpler format (i.e., a .DOC file to an .RTF file).
    When you forward a message that had attachments, you will have to Re-attach the files in most cases (this may vary by e-mail engine). When you Trash a message with Attachments, the converted files stay on your local drive and must be deleted separately.
  • Timeliness:
    Read your incoming e-mail at least twice a day. Just like you should answer your phone and return voice mail promptly (the Sundown Rule: always return a message that day), you should answer your e-mail in a timely manner. Please?
  • Signatures:
    Most e-mail packages allow you to define a text message which is automatically added to the bottom of each message. A lot of people take great pride in composing these "signatures" to exhibit their personality, interests, a joke, or an artistic talent. It is considered rude to make this section more than 5 or 6 lines long (and it may be longer then, than the short messages you may send).
  • Replies:
    The reply button functions differently depending on the e-mail package used, and it's user settings. Some software makes it too easy to reply to an entire maillist with one click. In general, you want to check your addresses BEFORE you mail any reply to make sure it is going to the correct person. Avoid posting a general question to an entire group. Avoid mailing a specific response to an entire group when only a few people are really interested in the post.
    For those of you with Eudora Pro, the default settings are Reply responds to the sender, and Shift-Reply responds to all the addressees of the initial post.
  • File Management:
    When you read a piece of e-mail it is written onto your local drive (but this is not a universal rule, AOL keeps your e-mail until you delete it or they think it's old). These messages individually are quite small, but multiplied by the hundreds may take up a lot of drive space. If you've got a lot of disk space, don't worry about this, if you're struggling you'll have to regularly delete old messages.
    Eudora Users: when you Trash a message, it's still in your mailbox (and on your local drive), you'll have to select "Empty Trash" from the "Special" menu to delete these files. Again, when you Trash a message with Attachments, the converted files stay on your local drive and must be deleted separately through File Manager/Explorer.
  • Privacy:
    The e-mail system is owned and administered by SFNB. Sorry, but you have no privacy using this system; all traffic can be monitored and messages (just like any file on your company computer) can be read/forwarded/printed by corporate management. Hey, it's their property! If you want privacy, then you'll need to setup your own e-mail account with an ISP, AOL, etc. and send mail through that.
  • Politeness Counts Make Content Interesting:
    Communicating via e-mail can sometimes be frustrating, since we are evolved to use many redundant cues when we communicate: language, tone, pace, body language, and eye contact. Without most of these channels of information, your language becomes very important when writing e-mail. You should strive to be polite and respectful, but brief and to the point.
    Humor can be used to help your message be received and retained, since fun activities are behavior reinforcements (and, they're not boring). Just don't use off-color-politically-incorrect humor, and don't use humor for a serious or respectful message.
  • Avoid Flames:
    Flames are (probably) the unfortunate result of too much stress in our daily lives. Occaisionally, an exchange via e-mail escalates into the electronic equivalent of a heated argument; and, since the other person is not at hand, many horrible and destructive things may be written in anger. This whole phenomenon is rooted in miscommunication and fear of losing control/respect of others, so be forgiving if you get an argumentative response to one of your messages. You may want to wait a while to compose a reply instead of dashing off an equally angry reposte. Resist the urge to tweak the other person and fan the flames, instead be apologetic (without patronizing them) and acknowledge their opinion. Sometimes you will encounter someone (hopefully not an SFNB associate) who has a genuinely difficult personality, if so, be patient and do not let yourself get baited in a long exchange.
    The root cause of flaming is almost always a misunderstanding. Since e-mail does not carry body language, or facial expressions, or tone of voice, it's hard to tell when the other party is feeling frustrated until it erupts. E-mail is great, but maintaining face-to-face contact with others is better. Taking time to regularly talk to people in person or on the phone will very often prevent problems.
    If YOU are tempted to flame someone, resist. You cannot win. All you will do is make the recipient an enemy. And, if you perform this flame in public by posting to a mailing list, you will make yourself look like an immature [censored] to a group of potential friends and/or co-workers. RESIST!
  • Emoticons:
    Emoticons are those cute little characters tacked onto sentences to help communicate facial expressions. If you are concerned that your personal flavor of humor may not dazzle in the desired way, these can soften a message enough to prevent miscommunications and, maybe a flame. You know what they look like :-)
  • Forwarding eMail:
    One of e-mail's most powerful features is the ability to send a message along to someone else. Just remember not to do this with personal or embarrassing messages, unless you have the permission or knowledge of the original sender. As a matter of good manners, you should cc: the sender of most messages when you forward them, so that they'll know their issue is making progress.
    It's common to edit the length of forwarded/reply messages to reduce the amount of reading. It's fine to remove signatures and greetings to leave only the important sections, but be careful to protect the context of comments. Editing spelling is one thing, but changing the intent of an e-mail without acknowledging the change is rude and dangerous.
  • Common Acronyms:
    Like any system, humans have set about making e-mail faster (and more complicated) by simplifying common terms into obscure acronyms. Here are some of them:
    BTW - By the way
    OBTW - Oh, by the way...
    FWIW - For what its worth
    IMHO - In my humble opinion
    IME - In my experience
    IOW - In other words
    NNFR - No need for reply
    WYSIWYG - What you see is what you get
    YMMV - Your mileage may vary
  • Spam / Spamming:
    Is sending unwanted mail to a large audience (or, as Alex is wont, a large volume of unwanted mail to a single person). Bad form. Stop the madness. Don't do this.
    There is a grey area here with messages within the company. As always, use discretion. For instance, vacation or absence notices can pile up, so try to send these notes to your specific working group and manager only.
  • Mistakes to Avoid Well, we're all adults here, and we know better, but still:
  • Don't Attach a file that contains a virus
  • Don't Attach a file or files larger than 500k
  • Don't Spam
  • Don't Flame anyone
  • Don't Use off-color humor
  • Don't Forward an embarrassing or personal message without permission
  • Don't Send secure information outside the company
  • Don't Send your Credit Card number in a message
  • Don't Send your Password(s) in a message
  • Don't Send your Social Security Number in a message
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