Email Etiquette

As a communication medium – email has  had rapid adoption has become a communication standard.  Statistics, extrapolations and counting by Radicati Group from August 2008 estimate the number of emails sent per day (in 2008) to be around 210 billion.  183 billion messages per day means more than 2 million emails are sent every second. About 70% to 72% of them might be spam and viruses. The genuine emails are sent by around 1.3 billion email users.

Since we all use email, you would think we could all practice a little etiquette in our email.  After all, we don’t let children just pick up the phone without teaching them some few basic manners… “Hello” is always a good way to start a phone conversation.  However, for e-mail, I don’t think we’ve come that far. I recently read  Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, a new book by David Shipley  and Will Schwalbe.


photo courtesy of Amazon

Send is a fascinating book on email etiquette.  When should you “reply all”?  When should one be addressed formally versus “hiya”.  One of my favorite parts of of the book has to do with email faux pas.  There is a particularly enlightening email between the then FEMA Director, Michael Brown, and his staff when he sends out an email after Hurricane Katrina.  Probably not his finest moment but I can certainly understand that emails allow for a certain amount of casualness that we would never have with anyone else. Worse of all, it will permanently be captured.

That’s the point of this book.  Email is so ubiquitous and permanent, and yet we don’t have decency and decorum as we would normally have with friends, colleagues and strangers.   My personal pet peeve is that I can’t stand being on a large group mailing list when someone decides to “reply all”.  If it is pertinent to everyone, then sure, I think you should  “reply-all”, but seriously, do you need to let everyone know “great idea”?  This inevitably sets off a long list of emails with many people chiming in with  comments.  OK, that’s a little harsh but you get the idea.  If you have lots of email, the last thing you really want is more.  I did learn that perhaps one word replies aren’t the best thing to do, even in a rush!  And finally, I think I’ll leave my signature on the end of my iphone messages that tells people it was sent from my iPhone.  Now I know it is good to let people know that brevity doesn’t mean rudeness.

Send:  The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home is a great and fast read.

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