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Guidelines for Creating Professional E-mail Messages

The rapid growth of the use of e-mail as a professional communication tool has necessitated the development of guidelines, or “netiquette” in handling, managing and writing e-mail.  Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

Who among us has mistakenly chosen “reply” when that is not what we intended?  Be careful to review who will actually receive the message, especially when you were simply copied on the original message.  Always take a second look at the recipient of your message.  One way to reduce the chance of sending a message to an unintended recipient is to forward, rather than reply, to messages.  By doing so, you must insert the name of the recipient.

Flag a message as “Urgent” only when it truly is.  This rule also applies to requesting that the recipient indicate the message has been received and read.

Do not slide on proofreading, spell checking, and reviewing for proper grammar and syntax.  Using e-mail does not excuse us from communicating in a professional manner.  This extends to using appropriate fonts, formatting and stationery.

Do not use stationery that makes it difficult to read the text.  Many firms avoid the use of stationery altogether.

Beware the use of taglines; your audience may not share your personal philosophy and may, indeed, be put off by the views expressed.  The content of the message is what should take center stage.

Curb the need to respond to every message.  When the exchange reaches a natural stopping point, stop.

Include a signature line that provides enough information for the recipient to know exactly who you are, your firm, your title, and appropriate contact information.  Some people may prefer to respond to an e-mail with a phone call.

Using an informative subject line will assist the recipient to search for and find the message later.

E-mail is here to stay, and stay, and stay.  Your message is forever so think twice before committing your thoughts to posterity by sending them in an e-mail.

Ellen Sheffer                                Leslie Donahue  

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