Businesslike Email is Safe Email
TO: "Canright Communicates" Readers
FROM: Doug Davidoff
DATE: September 2007
Collin Canright recently reminded an audience that there’s still a kind of “Wild, Wild West” attitude on the Internet. He had a great handout, and I urge you to take a look at it. I thought I would also write to remind you to be careful about what you put into your email messages and relay some of Collin’s tips.
I think it’s a good idea to write your email messages as if they will be posted on the office bulletin board – in your competitor’s office. You don’t want to embarrass yourself by how you write, and you don’t want to use email to divulge confidential information.
Email etiquette is still evolving, but much of it still reflects the first days of the Internet in the 1980s. Back then, the Internet was seen as an open book, and it’s surprising how many people still operate under that assumption. This is not a place to be naďve.
An example: People are far more likely to forward an email from you to many other people than they are likely to photocopy a letter you write and send it out. Someone would probably ask permission to copy a letter from you, but few people ask permission to forward an email from you to many other people, including people you do not know. So when you write an email, assume it will be widely read.
By the way, sending your original email to a large group of people enhances the likelihood that your message will simply enter the widest of public domains. If that’s what you want, then you’re fine. You’re using “viral marketing.” But if you don’t want your message forwarded, it’s wise to say so. One nationally known writer puts a note – “Please consider this message private and do not forward it,” or something like that – on emails she sends to friends.
You are well advised to keep your prose businesslike. Don’t use Internet abbreviations like “LOL” (“Laugh Out Loud”) or “IMHO” (“In My Humble Opinion”). Don’t use “emoticons” such as :-) the smiley face. Don’t convey confidential or proprietary news, or bad news, or disciplinary news, unless you want people everywhere to read it. It’s almost commonplace for business leaders to get caught on that point.
Emails deserve the respect that letters and memorandums received, say, 25 years ago. The advantages to an Internet electronic mail message are its immediacy and the ability to deliver it to many people at one time. Take advantage of those strengths, but don’t diminish them by failing to write a message that wouldn’t bother you if it were hung on the bulletin board in the kitchen or became the topic of chatter around the water cooler.
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or reactions. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to look at the handout!