In a world where digital communications are becoming increasingly more frequent, knowing proper etiquette for these electronic exchanges is highly important. The following tips are helpful in a modern communications era.
- Make subject line descriptive, but concise. E-mails without subject lines can be easily ignored but lengthy subject lines deter a reader's interest and understanding of the topic. It's considerate to accurately describe the e-mail to help the receiver remain organized.
- Always be aware of your tone. Although e-mail is an efficient tool, it takes a lot of the personal expression out of inter-office communication. Thus, making sure that wording in an e-mail has no negative connotations is highly important. Remember that what you say is in writing and that offending someone would not be beneficial to your work relationship with the receiver.
- Watch your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Proofreading is a highly important part of presenting yourself as a professional. However, this skill is particularly vital in e-mail communications because often people forward or reply to a group with your text intact. To remain as professional as possible, proofread before sending.
- Emoticons and chat acronyms are not appropriate for work-related communications. Work related e-mail should never have smiley faces or any chat acronyms (i.e. lol, jk, etc.). Just remember that whatever you type in an e-mail is a reflection on you and can be used to evaluate your job performance. Additionally, this paper trail can follow you to future positions and through the life of your relationship with the receiver.
- Concise e-mail messages with simple layouts are best. Being too wordy about the subject at hand or writing off tangent can be very frustrating for the reader. Additionally, although e-mail constitutes a large majority of business communication, no one wants to spend excessive time reading a rambling e-mail.
- Reply to e-mail within 24 hours. This response time is customary for most. Often the task or response someone needs is not going to be available within 24 hours. In this case, it is best to write them a response e-mail letting them know what channels you are working through to get the project completed and let them know how quickly you will be able to finish or when you will e-mail them again.
- Do not spam your office mates or send them chain mail. Although some people love reading the latest superstitions or jokes, often times work is not an appropriate venue for sharing information not related to work. If you send people these types of e-mails, they will assume that you are not very busy or that you don't care about the fact that they are busy. Just avoid the entire situation and help your co-workers maintain clutter-free inboxes by not sending these e-mails.
- Know when it's acceptable to take a phone call. If you are in the middle of a meeting with your supervisor or preparing for a large presentation, it might not be the best time to take a phone call. However, this often varies per office and per industry. While some employers don't allow time for personal calls, some are very flexible and understand that a lot of work-related calls will be coming to your cell phone. It's best to just learn the rules of your office and follow those but when in doubt, don't answer your cell phone unless you are on your break.
- Ask before using speakerphone. When putting someone on speakerphone in front of a large group, it is best to ask them if you can put them on speakerphone. It's also customary to introduce all who are listening.
- Speak clearly and be concise when leaving a voicemail. If leaving a voicemail is the only way to get a message to someone, speak slowly and clearly. Leave a message that is very short in duration but specific about the necessary details.
- Learn how to keep your tone positive and upbeat. Since communication is complex, talking to someone on the phone or leaving a voicemail is often not the best way for someone to understand what you are saying and in what tone. However, if this is the only option, remember that how your facial expressions and body language are not visible. Thus, it's important to adjust your tone and be conscious of how your phone voice comes across to the person receiving your message.
- Do not text or respond to an e-mail while in a meeting. Despite the fact that some people find it okay to use this communication medium during a meeting, it is rude to do so.
- Don't post inappropriate pictures of yourself or others on a social networking web site. By doing this, you expose yourself and your friends to potentially negative consequences. Employers have been known to search social networking sites and check out the items posted by potential candidates. You don't want to miss out on a great job because of something minor and preventable. If you intend to keep your accounts with these sites, clean them up to include no profanity or pictures of you doing undesirable activities.
- Use appropriate privacy settings. Just remember unless you block the general public from seeing your information, they can see it. They can use it against you. Just be careful about what you choose to keep visible and what you hide.
- Never badmouth a former employer or co-workers online. Once again, this information can and will get back to an old employer, which will most likely lead them to give you a poor recommendation. Potential employers won't appreciate this either because they are aware that one day you could be badmouthing them to the entire online community.
- Don't spam your contacts with quizzes, games, and status updates. People can easily de-friend or disconnect with you if you do these things. Additionally, if a co-worker or supervisor is a "friend" of yours, remember that every interaction you have with them can affect your work life. It's best to avoid irritating your colleagues by avoiding sending them every trivia and quiz game possible.