The early internet — Usenet newsgroups, in particular — spawned standards for polite written behaviour online. Now we all write online, using email. Not all the rules of netiquette apply to email, and some companies have standards for composing emails. But all businesses could benefit from consistent online writing.
Here are some points of netiquette most relevant to business.
- Always use a ‘sig’ file in emails — like a digital letterhead, a signature file with your contact details makes email look professional. Seasoned internet users will expect one and will use it to look up your details
- Never use capitals for emphasis — email is often a ‘text-only’ medium and you may not be able to use bold or underlining to emphasise words. Don’t be tempted to use capitals: they are seen as ‘SHOUTING’. Instead, an asterisk before and after the *word* you wish to emphasise is the recognised form
- Only use internet ‘shorthand’ if you’re sure it will be appreciated — the abbreviations created to speed up communication online (e.g. IMHO – in my humble opinion; BTW – by the way) can be useful but are far from being universally understood
- Assume every email you write will be read by lawyers — ‘wayward email’ stories are well-documented. But it is a fact that email — particularly within corporations — is a highly trackable medium. You should assume that any email you write could be stored, retrieved and read by, well, pretty much anyone