29 March 2009

Internet and e-mail etiquette

The next installment of "Kate is awed by the huge variation in reactions to normal life situations in academia."

I love e-mail. In most situations, I prefer to e-mail rather than call on the telephone, even when a moderately rapid response is desired. I am constantly boggled, however, at the manner in which some people view, interpret, and respond to e-mail. I tend towards informality in e-mail although I strive for clarity and succinctness. However, I am often addressed very formally in regards to my activities in service organizations. I have never been burned by my relative lack of formality, although I know folks that have had quite disastrous encounters via e-mail through no fault of their own (except for a misinterpretation of e-mail language).

On the plane from Mexico City to Dallas this past week, I came across a nice quick list of the top ten rules of e-mail etiquette. As the name of the magazine currently escapes me, I found a comprehensive list of tips for e-mail etiquette online.

Although buried beneath several subheadings a quite a scroll down the page, the hint that startled me the most when I was something along the lines of "Treat an e-mail address like a home phone number." I currently struggle with the concept of how often to e-mail (or CC) certain people in regards to partially relevant topics. This issue becomes even cloudier for me when I start to consider whether a response is needed for a particular message.

I interact with a number of individuals that love to send e-mail. In some ways, I really enjoy being kept in the loop and engaged in the discussion about certain topics being conducted via e-mail. At times, though, this becomes out of control, to the point of completely missing important messages because they are buried between multiple messages about another topic. I believe I'll need to ponder this topic a little more over the next few months...

For future reference, my other favorite rules for e-mail:
(1) Don't send huge attachments.
(2) Learn the difference between "reply" and "reply all"

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