Tips for a good e-mail communication - Netiquette

E-mail is one of the main communication means of online communities. With the increased importance of online communication and discussions, there is an increased potential of making some “communication” mistakes that might affect the spirit of your online community.

There are certain ways of behaving that are considered correct when communicating online. Netiquette stands for Network Etiquette and is a set of rules for behaving properly online. Communication flows within the network and its members will be smoother if the few basic principles of Netiquette are considered.
The purpose of this discussion group is peer-to-peer exchange and learning. Be aware that messages that do not follow our Netiquette may be blocked by the group moderators.

Remember the human

When you communicate electronically via e-mail, all you see is a computer screen. You don't have the opportunity to use facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice to communicate; written words are all you've got. In online discussions -- whether it is an email exchange or a response to a discussion group posting
– it is easy to misinterpret your correspondent's meaning. And it is frighteningly easy to forget that your correspondent is a person with feelings more or less like your own. It is important that you are polite and treat others the same way you want to be treated. Remember also that any message you send could be saved or
easily forwarded to a wider group of people. You have no control over where it goes. If you write something inappropriate you might be embarrassing yourself. Thus:
  • Introduce yourself if you send emails to persons you haven't met before (for instance through your email signature)
  • Be friendly, polite and considerate and watch your language. Ask yourself, "Would I say this to the person's face?" If the answer is no, reread and rewrite your message
  • Never write insulting statements in emails
  • Do not write in CAPITAL LETTERS or UPPERCASE, since they are considered as shouting. Many people find it annoying when a user types entirely in capitals
  • Give other people a chance and space to respond
  • Use I-statements, do not generalize
  • If you have an unsolved issue with anyone, or if someone says something that is offensive to you, do not respond to the whole list, rather in a private mail. Please do not hesitate also to contact the moderators. 
  • If you do decide to inform someone of a mistake - be it spelling, asking something “irrelevant” (in your opinion), giving too long of an answer, etc. -point it out politely, and preferably in private email rather than in public

Respect other people’s time and bandwidth

When you send email or post to an e-mail discussion group, you're taking up other people's time. It's your responsibility to ensure that the time they spend reading your posting is not wasted. Thus,
  • Avoid posting the same note to the same mailing list many times. You will be wasting both time (of the people who check all five copies of the posting) and bandwidth (by sending repetitive information over the wires and requiring it to be stored somewhere).
  • Avoid copying mails to many people unless they request to be on copy. People have less time than ever today, precisely because they have so much information to absorb. Before you copy people on your messages, ask yourself whether they really need to know. If the answer is no, don't waste their time. If the answer is maybe, think twice before you hit the send key and ask them first.
  • Pay attention to the content of your writing. Be sure you know what you're talking about – when you see yourself writing "it's my understanding that" or "I believe it's the case," ask yourself whether you really want to post this note before checking your facts. Bad information propagates like wildfire on the net.
  • Avoid using abbreviations that others do not know
  • Make sure your messages are clear and logical. It's perfectly possible to write a paragraph that contains no errors in grammar or spelling, but still makes no sense whatsoever. This is most likely to happen when you're trying to impress someone by using a lot of long words that you don't really understand yourself. It's better to keep it simple: be short and well structured.
  • Always write short and informative subject lines, to inform your receiver about the subject of the message.
  • Avoid addressing too many different topics in one email; it is better to write two mails on two different topics
  • Avoid sending personal information or attachments as pictures (family and friends) to the whole mailing list. Do it on private mails and to people who would be interested in receiving this information.
  • Whenever you respond to a question, comment a posted document or participate in a discussion, please just “reply” on the last posting you received on this issue. This lead to what is called “threading” in web-collaboration: the entire prior discussion is included in the lower part of all new posts, making for easy follow-up. Note, that when you reply to a message EVERYONE in the group will receive your response. Normally this is exactly what you want because the whole point of a discussion group is to share ideas and experiences. However, if your reply is truly only relevant to the author of the post, scroll down to the end of the original message and click “reply to sender” (this is called backchannel message).

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