E-mail Etiquette


Roger C. Parker is one of those prolific writers and commentators that I have grown to appreciate tremendously. I first met Roger through a webinar hosted by Mindjet. Roger appears to be a multi-talented individual, but I have come to know Roger within the arena of helping authors get published and in helping non-design people like myself look good in print. I have been a subscriber to his “Published and Profitable” web site since last fall.

While the focus of Roger’s writing and communications is not necessarily on productivity or technology, these topics bleed through in all that he presents. Many of his ideas are turn-key, simple thoughts that can be implemented immediately into your current workflow.

A Little Background

First, I need to provide a little background. Recently, I shared in a conversation with my wife one of the side lessons I have learned this semester in my class on Distance Education, which is part of my master’s degree through the University of Northern Iowa.

By it’s very nature, Distance Education relies heavily on text-based communication. This includes discussion forums, online chats, and e-mail. As I’ve watched and observed my professor, Dr. Ana Donaldson, facilitate this course, I have grown to appreciate how skilled she is at online communication. No e-mail or discussion posting, no matter how trivial, goes without a response.

As I’ve reflected on this, I have observed how many professional people, many of whom I would rate as excellent communicators offline, are simply atrocious when it comes to e-mail communication. Not only do they write poorly when they communicate via e-mail, but most importantly, they completely ignore many of the e-mail communications sent to them!

This, in my judgment, is simply unprofessional and does much to damage the overall credibility of an otherwise skilled professional.

E-mail is clearly an important—if not vital–communication tool in the 21st century. Still many of the people in middle- and upper-management today are baby boomers who started their careers without e-mail. It is an acquired skill, not something native to their generation. Those who want to be viewed as skilled communicators both offline and online need to learn some basic “E-mail Etiquette.”

A Simple Lesson in E-mail Etiquette

Now, to Roger’s comment:

Because e-mail has been a major part of our lives for several years, there’s a temptation to take it for granted.

In particular, there’s a temptation to assume that every e-mail we send will reach the intended recipient and–most important–be noticed.

Unfortunately, that’s not true in 100% of the cases. Some e-mails get lost in transit, others get lost in the recipient’s increasingly filled in-boxes.

That’s why I paid attention when Jeffrey Fox, last week’s Published & Profitable expert interview guest, described he immediately sends a “Got it!” reply/confirmation every time he receives a personal e-mail. It takes just a second to Reply, yet his confirmation projects an image of professionalism. Most important, his colleagues know that, if they don’t receive a confirmation, something has gone wrong, and they follow-up by phone.

Strong brands and reputations are often built on simple, easy-to-follow, routines that show you care.

I couldn’t agree more! Nothing is more frustrating than to send an e-mail, whether it’s a simple “FYI,” action item, or request, etc., and have the e-mail simply disappear into cyberspace. Nothing. Nada. Did they get it? Do they agree or disagree? Should I move forward? Do I need to follow-up with a telephone call? In many cases a simple “Got it!” answers these questions.

So, take one small step forward in making a giant contribution to your professional image; don’t let a bunch of unanswered e-mails collect in your inbox.

Do you agree? No long answer is needed…a simple “Got it!” will do. 🙂

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