There has been much discussion lately about email etiquette and email rules. Everyone has experienced someone who can’t seem to abide by email standards.
Then it hit me… where are the standards? (Well, yes, there are always etiquette standards. Those are the socially accepted norms.)
But, does your company have published email usage standards? Not the standard, “work use only” and no “offensive material.” I am talking about email usage guidelines. Rules. Laws.
In other words, if you cannot abide by these rules… you cannot work here.
Just as we expect basic computer skills, such as Excel or PowerPoint, shouldn’t we expect a certain level of email proficiency?
Email rules are not meant to stifle creativity, they are intended to increase productivity and improve communication.
So, here are 9 email laws for the workplace…
TMN’s “9 Laws for Work Email”
- Only copy those that need to know – This is an easy one. Just because you are not paying for stamps on these things, does not mean that everyone in the building should be copied on your weekly status update. It may make you feel more important, but it only bogs down everyone else trying to get their job done. Emails should only be addressed to those who need to read what you are sending. End of story.
- Do not use BCC – BCC is one of the most misunderstood and most abused email options. Here is a good thumb rule: “If they should be on the message, they should be on the message.” Don’t think you are being cute/sly by copying your friend or boss without anyone knowing. It will come back to haunt you. BCC has a proper use, and it should only be used to mask distribution lists. Nothing else.
- No colored fonts – No joke. Not kidding. Writing your email in red or green does not increase its effectiveness. In fact, pretty much guarantees people are going to hit delete. Does your workplace accept business memos written in green crayon? If so, you can ignore this law.
- Your Signature – no pictures, quotes, or anything besides your contact info – We don’t need the latest pithy quote or a link to the charity you support. It does not belong on your work email. Put it on your facebook or somewhere else.
- Do not “reply all” to thank someone – OK, the message was addressed to 24 people and you really needed to hit “Reply All” to say “Thanks?” Even more annoying when 12 others like you do it.
- Do not expect an immediate response – In our hyper connected world, email is the new snail mail. Once upon a time, email was considered fast. Wanted a quick response? Send an email. But it has since been demoted down the communication response priority list. If you need a more immediate response: call, text, or come see me. Many people check email only 2-3 times a day and are turning off their work email on breaks and weekends.
- No ALL CAPS – Ever. Never. Ever. Never. There is never a reason for all caps. Got it? Try bold or italics, instead.
- Keep it short – In a previous post, I suggested that all emails be <5 lines long. While you may not see this as realistic, no one wants to (or will) read your 3 page email manifesto.
- Your work email is for “Work” – Last but certainly not least, in the age of free GMail and smartphones, there is no reason for you to be using your work email for personal reasons. Do not sign up for mailing lists. Do not have your friends or significant other send spam and videos to your work address.
These are my email laws.
All companies should have published rules as part of their job standards. After all, we want email to contribute to productivity, not be a timesink.
What are your personal rules? Does your company have email rules? Please share in the comments.