New Rules of Email Etiquette

Yesterday I led a brown-bag lunch session, Email Intelligence, for a very intelligent group in Seattle. They came up with eight new rules of email etiquette to add to my standard list. Click here to download that list.

The group offered these excellent suggestions:

  1. Create an automatic reply to let people know when you are away from the office. That way, people won’t be waiting days for your response. Be sure to turn off the automatic reply when you return.
  2. Set an expiration date for messages that will be irrelevant after a certain date or time. (This feature of Microsoft Outlook appears under Options/Options:Delivery Options when you are writing a new message or a reply.)
  3. Avoid using a long automatic signature for replies. To create a short automatic signature for replies in Microsoft Outlook, go to Tools/Options/Mail Format/Signatures. Click Signatures. Click New. Name your new signature. Then follow the instructions.
  4. Use the Outlook calendar–not email–to announce events and schedule appointments. When you use email without the calendar, your readers must take the extra step of adding the information to their calendars.
  5. Avoid the word immediately to indicate an urgent deadline. Your reader may have other "immediate" tasks. Phone or email to find out how soon the other person can handle your "immediate" need.
  6. Use the Outlook ! (red exclamation mark flag) judiciously–that is, only for messages that are important and urgent.
  7. Assume your message won’t be read immediately.
  8. Assume your message will be forwarded.

If you attended the Email Intelligence session, you know who you are. Thank you for these valuable, practical suggestions!

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Other search spellings: etiquete, etiquitte, emial, e-mail, auto-reply, autoreply, auto-signature, autosignature

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Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact. A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors. A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media. Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.