We’ve discussed email etiquette in past Spotlights, but the information is important enough to repeat. Nowadays, this advice also applies to Facebook posts, blog responses, Twitter tweets, text messages and any other type of social media.
Whenever you take part in any communication, do so as if everyone is going to read what you have written – because it’s possible they will. An email can be easily forwarded and often an email that was never meant to be forwarded will end up in a long string of emails. Stop and think before you send an email. Would this be better handled over the phone? Save sensitive issues for phone calls, or better yet, face-to-face conversations.
Avoid sarcasm in an email or social media post. People may also wrongly interpret a joke as a serious statement.
Be sensitive to others’ points of view. Avoid adding quotes after your signature that may offend. Remember that you represent a publicly funded university, and all communications must be politically and socially neutral. That includes your signature lines.
When responding to a string of emails that may be five or six – or even more – emails long, it’s helpful to delete the quote or any extraneous information under the signature.
Check the names of all of the recipients on the email. Think before you hit “reply all.” Is it necessary for all of these people to hear your answer?
Avoid writing in all capital letters. It’s often perceived as yelling. Check spelling and grammar.
Though the smartphone is a common and convenient method of communication, it can create its own communication problems. Smartphone users should take special care to check their spelling before sending a message. Those of us who are sending emails to smartphone users – and that is most likely all of us – need to be aware that smartphone users may only see the first part of our email. It’s helpful to give a heads-up in the first line of our message such as “There are five points in this email that I’d like you to address” or “Please answer the two questions in this email.”
Your MSU email address is legally official university communications. And since we are representing Michigan State University Extension, we want to present ourselves in a professional light. Read over your emails before you send them. Make sure that what you’ve said reflects positively on our organization. Many individuals have a separate email account from a private provider that they can use for voicing their personal opinions with friends, family and decision makers. I encourage you to make full use of the Internet for personal and professional expression. Just remember to communicate as a professional when your communications are a part of your work and to communicate as you wish to present yourself personally when you’re off the clock.