Thursday, 26 April 2007

Netiquette: Avoiding the perils of e-mail

[...] with emails, everyone needs to be a little harder on themselves and cut everyone else a little more slack."

The pair argue that email is the "hardest written medium of all" and it's difficult not to disagree. Some people send an email instead of a letter, others substitute it for a phone call. For recipients to know which was intended - and so the tone of their response - can be crucial.

Tone is something that needs to be injected into an email, otherwise the reader might misinterpret it. Emails encourage the "lesser angels of our nature", making us angrier, less sympathetic and more easily wounded than usual because we are unable to monitor the reactions of the person with whom we are communicating.

Some of Send's remedies to the absence of tone - namely liberal use of exclamation marks and abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud) - seem unsophisticated, especially from a book that also advises people to err on the side of formality when deciding whether to address people by their first names.

But Schwalbe and Shipley are email conservatives. Their starting point is that we send far too many emails and their Holy Grail is to encourage email "that is so effective that it cuts down on email".

Littered throughout the book are repeated suggestions that, sometimes, a phone call or even - deep breath - a letter might be more appropriate. In an age of email over-use and abuse, much of their advice seems sound, if not sometimes slightly obvious.

Their two top tips are "Think before you send" and "Send email you would like to receive". Their "eight deadly sins" include emails that are "unbelievably vague", "cowardly", "too casual", "inappropriate" and insult you "so badly you have to get up from your desk". Read more

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