Netiquette - is yours up to scratch?

Email is possibly the greatest communication tool of our time - it's less intrusive than a phone call and much faster than a letter. However a recent study by the Association of Personal Assistants has revealed that only 1 in 5 PAs feel that emails make their firm more efficient, and that 60% complained that the volume of useless emails they received seriously impeded effectiveness.

As a member of the office support team, one of your key roles is ensuring effective communication between managers, colleagues and clients, and these days this will almost certainly be via email. When we pick up the phone, write a letter or even speak face-to-face with someone, we expect them to observe certain rules of behaviour, and the same goes for email. It is therefore important to ensure you come across as you would want to when meeting in person - the added risk with email is that once you hit the send button, you won't have another chance!

The first things to consider when constructing an email is who to send it to and how. With only three choices for addressing an e-mail - the 'To', 'Cc' and 'Bcc' fields - you would think addressing would be trouble free. Unfortunately, that's not the case, so here are a few tips for successful emailing.

Here are our top tips:

  • The addresses in the 'To' field are the people you are speaking to directly and the addresses in the 'Cc' are for the people you are indirectly talking to
  • If you put everyone in the 'To' field your recipients will not know who is supposed to respond
  • The 'Bcc' field allows you to email a group of people without the other recipients knowing who else has been included. For obvious reasons this can sometimes be unethical, however it is a handy feature if you need to email a group of people but want to make the message appear personal
  • The 'Reply to All' button is another one to use with care; it can generate dozens of unnecessary emails
  • Messages, as a general rule, should be concise and to the point, but avoid using unnecessary abbreviations such as 'plz' instead of 'please' or '2' instead of 'to' in a business correspondence. Punctuation is not as important as it is in a letter, but it is still necessary to convey the correct tone of your email
  • It is definitely unadvisable to write your message in capital letters - this is the equivalent of shouting down the phone at someone.
  • If in doubt about how to address someone, always use the more formal salutation of 'Mr.', 'Mrs.', 'Dr.' etc. When you are replying to an email and the sender of the original message has used his or her first name only, then you could safely assume that it's okay to use that person's first name as well
  • Last but definitely not least, the subject title. This is a key element to any email, as it is your chance to catch the eye of the recipient who almost certainly receives hundreds of emails each day. It will also help the recipient find your email at a later need if they should need to refer back to it